Fort Wayne Philharmonic's musicians union voted unanimously to give their bargaining team the authorization to call a strike, if the executive board continues to propose an unbalanced budget.
The negotiating committees for both groups reconvened at 9 a.m. today to continue with contract negotiations, the Musicians of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic said in a statement.
The union stated that the Philharmonic's current proposal would reduce the musicians' base salary from $27,221 to $16,408 and reduce the number of 44 full-time musicians to 27 in an effort to reduce the orchestra deficit of more than $2.3 million.
Two days shy of the Philharmonic's opening night, Dennis Fick, the orchestra committee chairperson, said Thursday that the musicians will continue to rehearse and perform for Saturday's concert. He said that as long as both parties "are talking, we're working."
"It's not that we have decided upon a strike, but we are ready to do it if we need to," Fick said.
J.L. Nave III, Philharmonic president and CEO, could not be reached immediately for comment Thursday.
Fick said that under the current proposal, musicians would be required to take a 40 percent to 70 percent pay cut, plus pay significantly more for healthcare.
"Half of the budget is for the artistic product – that's the musicians on stage, the conductor, guest artists. Half of the budget is for support operations including concert production, marketing, fundraising and administration. They proposed cutting the artistic budget by about 31 percent, and they proposed cutting the support side by 10 percent. We have an unbalanced situation," Fick said.
Although, the musicians' four-year contract ended in August, negotiations began in April because of the orchestra's financial concerns. Musicians have currently offered to help with public fundraising and cut musicians' income by 12.5 percent, a concession the union states would save the Philharmonic $250,000.
"We musicians are very much concerned about the financial conditions of the Philharmonic, and we have demonstrated many times our willingness to step up to help, but we're not going to doing this by ourselves," Fick said. "They need to meet us halfway. So far we haven't gotten to that point."