Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra musicians voted on Tuesday to authorize a strike after the symphony’s management said it planned to implement a “concessionary contract” this month.
“The musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony met [Tuesday] afternoon for a strike authorization vote, and the vote was passed virtually unanimously,” said Scott Jessup, spokesman for the musicians union.
The vote does not call a strike but authorizes the union’s negotiating committee to do so.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association and the union have been in contract negotiations for almost seven months.
“After seven months of bargaining, there is a huge gap that remains between us,” orchestra President and CEO Amy Adkins said in an interview Tuesday. “The association, from the get-go, has been very clear that we cannot reach an agreement without concessions to ensure the survival of the organization.
“Right now, we are $4 million apart, and we have determined there is no hope of reaching an agreement and, therefore, we conclude we have reached impasse.”
According to the American of Federation of Musicians Local 72-147, management will implement a new contract on Monday with financial concessions including an 8.4 percent cut in total wages.
“The difference with this latest offer is that the Symphony has stated that they will not bargain with us anymore by calling this their ‘last, best, and final,’ offer,” the union said in a statement. “Management says they will implement this offer on January 25, forcing us to work under the conditions they impose.”
The symphony has a pops series scheduled for this weekend. After the new contract takes effect Monday, the next concerts are a symphonic series with guest violinist Caroline Goulding on Jan. 29-31. And the following Saturday, Feb. 6, is the symphony’s annual gala fundraiser featuring violin superstar Joshua Bell.
After the strike vote meeting, musicians marched to the Bank of Texas building adjacent to Burnett Plaza in downtown to deliver a flier to Mark Nurdin, CEO of Bank of Texas, who is chairman of the symphony executive committee. The flier said, “Mr. Nurdin: tell orchestra management to come back to the table and negotiate with the musicians!”
Building security personnel stopped the musicians in the lobby and offered to deliver the flier to Nurdin. The security personnel said Nurdin was busy and could not meet with the musicians.
In a post on its website, the orchestra association said there have been 19 negotiation sessions.
“The parties have reached agreement on a significant number of issues but have not reached agreement on financial issues,” the association said. “The union’s demands would produce a huge deficit that jeopardizes the FWSO’s survival.”
Management says musicians’ requests would increase the orchestra’s deficit to $1.2 million a season. The orchestra projects a $650,000 deficit for the current season with a budget of $12 million, with the deficit partly due to lower corporate donations.
In 2010, musicians agreed to a contract that included a 13.5 percent pay cut that saved the symphony $2.3 million. The latest contract offer will shrink salaries to 2003 levels, the union said.
We demand that management come back to the bargaining table to ensure that the legacy of Cowboys and Culture will not be destroyed
American of Federation of Musicians Local 72-147
“Once again, the musicians are being told to pay for a pattern of shortsighted management,” the union said. “We demand that management come back to the bargaining table to ensure that the legacy of Cowboys and Culture will not be destroyed.”
Adkins said the association cannot remain “in a stuck position” and must move forward, adding that it told the union in October that it had no more room to move and that the union needed to begin bargaining concessions.
“The association only has the best interest of the long-term health of the organization in mind as we are making these decisions,” she said.
“People’s discretionary spending habits have completely changed and we’re working smarter and harder. Last year we achieved the first growth in season ticket sales in eight years. That was the result of targeted efforts.
“What we’re really doing at the end of the day is saving jobs. … We cannot endure any more layoffs.”