JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra resumed practice Wednesday morning in preparation for it's upcoming season, with continued work on musician contracts looming overhead.
Negotiations began in April and still have not been resolved. The Musician Union presented its sixth proposal this week, hoping to avoid deep pay cuts and a shorter season, from 37 to 33 weeks, that the Symphony says it will likely need to stay out of debt.
"We are assuming we're in a play and talk situation," said Peter Wright, Principal Clarinet and President of Musician Union 444. "Their line is that it's the economy, and they just can't afford it. We keep asking well, how did we get into this? Did we not play well? And [they say] oh no, no, no it's the economy."
But Wright isn't buying that argument.
"Is it really that bad? Do we really need to take a 20 percent cut? We say no."
Martin Connor, Preisdent Elect of the Jacksonville Symphony disagrees, however. He says the cut equals 19 percent, but only if the season is shortened by four weeks. Otherwise, he thinks the cuts are fair, and believes musicians need to understand the financial situation the Symphony is facing.
"It is really that bad! This is what is so frustrating! [We have a $3 million debt and $1.5 million projected loss, so this is not trivial," he told Action News.
Connor says each of the Union's six proposals have eventually raised costs. The latest cuts musician pay by three percent for the next two years, but raises it to current rates in the third year. Connor says that's why the Symphony hasn't counter-offered.
"Why should we be coming back with a new proposal, which would have to call for serious pay cuts, when they're not even acknowledging we have a problem?"
Connor tells Action News the Symphony has already cut staff pay as much as 10 percent, as well as vendors, and marketing efforts. He says the $4 million musician's budget is next in line, and the latest Union proposal may not be enough.
"It still leaves us with a $1.1 million loss."
Wright tells Action News the Union has reviewed the Symphony's financial situation and believes the proposal is fair to the musician's. He adds there are no plans for musician's to strike. Meanwhile, the Connor says the Symphony is reviewing the proposal, and plans to meet with musicians on Saturday.
The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra will begin their season on Friday. For more information on schedules and tickets call 904-354-5547 or click on jaxsymphony.org.