JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra season is set to start at the end of September, but after a board meeting Tuesday, musicians say they may not play a note.
About 90% of the orchestra is in a union and right now those roughly 60 musicians are weighing their options. They expect to make a decision this week on whether or not they will strike.
For five months now the Musicians Union and the Symphony Board have been in contract negotiations. Tuesday night the Jacksonville Symphony Association sent this statement saying, "The Jacksonville Symphony Association Board is convinced that negotiations are at an impasse and that the Association will implement its final contract offer to the musicians."
The first performance is scheduled for September 28th. Principal Clarinetist Peter Wright, president of the Musicians Union, said the union offered five different proposals to the Symphony Association Board but all were turned down.
If the musicians accept the offer on the table it would in essence cut their base salary by about 20%. For some that would mean they would be making $32,000 a year.
"If it's a musician with a wife and children they have to pay additional for health insurance for family coverage, and so that really doesn't leave money for them to make a decent living wage on," Wright explained.
Five years ago the musicians were locked out for 9 weeks before agreeing to keep their salaries flat for three seasons.
"Pretty devastated right now. We have a wonderful, world-class orchestra and these musicians have given so much since we lost so much in the lockout" said Wright. "We were hoping they would get their act together which they promised us last time which didn't happen."
The Symphony Association says the union has continued to demand pay raises even though the Symphony is facing serious financial troubles.
It's now in the red $3 million dollars.
Without immediate action, the Association projects its operating loss this season will be $1.5 million.
Martin Connor, the Association's chair-elect says this is life or death for the symphony.
The union says it is now faced with two options.
"There will be two options. The musicians will get together and they will either accept the final best offer of a 20% cut or we will reject it which means we will go on strike," Wright said.
Symphony tickets are still for sale right now. On the Jacksonville Symphony Association's website it says it has no intention of locking out the musicians. But in the event that a concert is cancelled, and you have tickets, you will be notified by email, regular mail, or telephone.
First Coast News