FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Negotiations for a new musicians' contract have not been harmonious as the Fort Wayne Philharmonic prepares to open its 70th season this weekend.
Members of the orchestra's musicians union voted unanimously Thursday to authorize a strike if contract talks don't advance toward an agreement, said Dennis Fick, chairman of the union's negotiating committee.
Orchestra management has proposed cutting base salaries from about $27,000 to less than $17,000, raising health insurance premiums and reducing from 44 to 27 the number of full-time musicians, Fick told The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1h8CA15 ). The orchestra is facing a more than $2 million budget deficit and in May canceled some concerts for the 2013-14 season.
"We like what we do, we like playing music, we like playing for people who like to come out and listen to us, and we like getting paid," he said.
But, he said, "like any other working person, when facing cuts of 40 to 70 percent, we have to ask ourselves whether this is a fair deal."
J.L. Nave III, president and CEO of the Philharmonic, said he's committed to reaching an agreement and is looking forward to Saturday's opening-night performance.
"I'm really pleased the musicians echoed our sentiments on having a great opening-night concert — this is why we do what we do," Nave said. "We hope people come out and support our orchestra."
Fick said while a musicians strike isn't imminent, he believes the orchestra's management is directing too much of its planned spending cuts toward the musicians rather than administration costs.
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra canceled five weekends of performances last fall during a lockout of its musicians before a new contract agreement with pay cuts and fewer concerts was reached.
Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net