Arts & Culture

Fort Worth Symphony musicians, management agree to federal mediation

Prior to a concert, the orchestra musicians took a moment to address the audience about their ongoing contract disputes.
Prior to a concert, the orchestra musicians took a moment to address the audience about their ongoing contract disputes. Special to the Star-Telegram

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra musicians and management have agreed to federal mediation as the two sides try to reach a new contract agreement.

Both parties said they “mutually agreed” to have a mediator help with contract talks, which have lasted more than a year. A contract extension that was signed in the spring expires on July 31, a few weeks after the orchestra finishes its Concerts in the Garden series.

Union president Stewart Williams said a mediator is necessary because the two sides are still far apart, with management asking for salary and benefits cuts for musicians.

“We’ve recently made a move reducing our proposals by about $1.5 million, and the Fort Worth Symphony management still continues to propose cuts in the same basic range they have the entire time, so we felt that a neutral party might help to have an effect on the situation,” said Williams, president of the American Federation of Musicians Local 72-147, which represents musicians employed by the orchestra.

Talks are expected to resume on July 19, Williams said.

Symphony president Amy Adkins said the two sides have gotten closer but that there is no agreement on pay and benefits. She said the symphony expects to operate with an $800,000 deficit next season. This year, the symphony’s deficit is about $500,000 because of better-than-expected ticket sales for Concerts in the Garden, she said.

“We are looking forward to working with the mediator in the near future and see what we can come up with,” Adkins said.

Tensions rose between symphony management and musicians earlier this year as contract talks broke down. The musicians authorized a strike in January, and management announced plans to impose a concessionary contract that included 8 percent wage cuts.

The union had several demonstrations at Bass Hall, but did not call a strike and agreed to a contract extension until July 31.

The symphony is scheduled to begin its 2016-17 season with a Classical Masters festival on Aug. 26-28.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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