Fort Worth — The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association and the union that represents the musicians, American Federation of Musicians Local 72-147, have finally reached an agreement after months of negotiations and a possible strike, which the union approved last week. The musicians were fighting to not have another cut in pay, this one at 8.7 percent, after the pay cuts in 2010 that have not been replaced.
This doesn't mean the FWSO is out of trouble: It retains a dangerous budget deficit, as it has had for several years since the recession. But this agreement takes the musicians through the end of the current fiscal year, on July 31, 2016. We'll see what happens after that.
Read all about it in the news release:
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association and the union that represents its musicians have agreed to extend the terms of the musicians’ prior contract (that expired on July 31, 2015) through the current fiscal year which ends on July 31, 2016. The Association and the Musicians’ Union will resume negotiations for a successor contract on a mutually agreed-upon date in the near future. This agreement means that, at least through July 31, the Association and the Union will conduct negotiations without the threat of a work stoppage. The agreement was ratified today by a vote of FWSO musicians.
“Although this agreement does not address the Fort Worth Symphony’s projected shortfall for the current fiscal year, it has the advantage of buying the parties additional time to reach agreement under less pressure by delaying the possibility of a strike or other work stoppage,” said Amy Adkins, FWSOA President and CEO. “The Association’s goal to be fiscally responsible and operate within a balanced budget remains the same. We look forward to returning to the bargaining table to achieve an agreement that will help to preserve the Orchestra’s future.”
For years, the Orchestra has been combatting chronic deficits caused by external factors. The annual structural deficit is estimated to be $650,000, which is significant for an organization having a total budget of only $12 million. A contingency fund used to pay the deficits is nearly dried up, forcing the Association to pursue a combination of new revenue generation and cost-saving measures. Seeking concessions from its musicians’ union is one of the cost-saving measures.
The Association has primarily been seeking a reduction of musician paid vacation from the current level of 42 days to a more sustainable level of 28 days, which would still be above the average amount of paid vacation for similar-sized orchestras. The current average salary of an FWSO musician is $60,900. The Association's proposed concessions amount to approximately an eight percent cut in total wages achieved primarily through reduced leave. The Association has not proposed a reduction in compensation for services worked. The Association believes it can simultaneously live within its means, retain the current level of programming and concerts provided to the public, and pay musicians at a level that is competitive with orchestras of similar budget size.