By: Malcolm Mayhew
Holiday concerts like Handel’s Messiah and New Year’s Eve: A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald are on hold for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra – at least for now.
The orchestra announced Monday that the ongoing musicians’ strike will continue through Dec. 31, therefore canceling performances through the end of the year.
“We will continue to work in good faith to bring the music back to the community while ensuring the long term health and future of the orchestra,” said Amy Adkins, president of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association (FWSOA). “We appreciate the continued patience and understanding of our loyal audiences and supporters as we navigate this complex and challenging situation.”
The decision to continue the strike comes after the FWSOA and orchestra musicians failed to settle on a new contract over the weekend. Both parties have spent more than a year negotiating a contract agreement – one that would, ideally, help the orchestra overcome its financial struggles and still adequately compensate musicians. The orchestra has been experiencing a financial deficit in recent years, with the FWSOA projecting an approximately $700,000 deficit in its $12 million budget for current and future seasons, according to a news release.
However, some of the new contract proposals involved cutting musicians’ salaries. One option was to have a four-year contract in which paid weeks would be reduced from 46 to 43 in the first two years, then later increase to 44 in the third and fourth years. Also part of the contract was a 6.5 percent pay cut that would occur in the first year, then in the following three years, wages would increase. According to a news release, musicians would have been earning 3.5 percent more than what they’re making currently once the contract hit its fourth year.
Orchestra musicians, represented in the musicians' union Local 72-147 of the American Federation of Musicians, rejected the offer.
The union and FWSOA met again Saturday to try to renegotiate, but to no avail. According to a news release by the musicians’ union, musicians requested for discussions to continue.
“We told the management that we were ready to get back to the table as soon as possible,” said Stewart Williams, president of the musicians’ union. “They owe it to our audiences and the Fort Worth community to make this effort toward collaboration.”
In the case that an agreement is reached and the strike ends before Dec. 31, the orchestra will consider reinstating canceled performances. A full list of canceled concerts, as well as options for unused tickets, can be found here.
By: Malcolm Mayhew