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Fort Wayne Philharmonic, musicians union fail to reach new labor contract during meeting Thursday

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Update from musicians

The negotiating team for union musicians with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic released a statement at 5:25 p.m. Thursday saying negotiators for both sides for seven hours Thursday and did not reach an agreement.

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic proposed a reduction in work weeks from 40 weeks to 32 weeks, musicians said. Currently, the annual salary is $27,221.60. The eight-week cut reduces the annual base salary to $21,777.28.

Under the Philharmonic's proposal, employees will also be responsible for an additional $3,276 annually for family health insurance coverage, musicians said.

“These cuts, if implemented, would profoundly undermine the fine musical ensemble that has been built by the efforts many hands over the last 40 years and would leave the
Philharmonic far less able to deliver to the community the services that it has come to know and value,” said Dennis Fick, musicians' negotiating committee
chairman. "The community would lose something precious and irreplaceable, and would be the poorer for it."

Saturday's season-opening Masterworks Series concert will go on as planned at the Embassy Theatre

Friday, September 27, 2013 - 9:25 am

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic and the union representing its musicians failed to agree on a new labor contract during seven hours of negotiations Thursday, but Saturday's season-opening concert will go on as planned.

Both sides remain committed to negotiating, but no talks currently are scheduled, J.L. Nave III, philharmonic president and CEO, said Thursday. The previous labor agreement expired Aug. 16.

Musicans have voted unanimously, however, to give their negotiating team the authority to call a strike, said Dennis Fick, musicians' negotiating committee chairman and principal bassoonist with the orchestra.

Musicians are willing to take a 12 percent pay cut and to help the Phil with fundraising, Fick said. Phil management, however, seems to be asking musicians to shoulder the biggest share of cuts in this year's proposed budget rather than spreading it equally among musicians, guest artists and conductors on the artistic side and administration, marketing, education and other programs on the support side of the budget.

"The musicians understand the situation," he said. "We have been concerned about it for a long time."

Fick said preliminary figures show the Phil suffered a budget shortfall of more than $900,000 last year. That figure only adds to existing debt.

Fick said the Phil's offer keeps changing, but as of Thursday Phil management wants to cut the orchestra's weeks of work to 32 weeks from the current 40 weeks, a reduction of about $5,400 each in musicians' annual salary. The Phil also is asking musicians to pay an additional $3,276 annually for family health insurance coverage, the musicians said in a statement released Thursday.

The cuts would "profoundly undermine" the orchestra, Fick said in the statement.

Nave said the Phil will work to get both sides back to the negotiating table soon. Staff and musicians currently are focused heavily on Saturday's concert, he added.

The Phil and musicians will continue working under the terms of the old agreement until they sign a new agreement, Nave said Tuesday. The last couple of labor contracts were not approved until the new season was well underway.

The Phil will open its 2013-2014 season with a Masterworks Series concert of Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Embassy Theatre, 121 W. Jefferson Blvd. The music is a romantic symphony “filled with attention-grabbing melodies, passionate musical eruptions and lovingly hushed interludes,” the orchestra says at www.fwphil.org.

Phil Music Director Andrew Constantine will conduct.

Tickets are $10 for students with ID, $17, $28, $49 and $64.50. They are available at the Phil box office at 481-0777 or toll-free 1-888-402-2224 or in person at 4901 Fuller Drive. Hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays; noon-4 p.m. Saturdays on concert days; and about 45 minutes before the show at concert sites. Tickets for concerts at the Embassy Theatre also are available at the Embassy box office 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays.