FORT WAYNE – Halfway through the Fort Wayne Philharmonic season, progress has been made on the musicians’ new contract – at least for now.
The Philharmonic Players Association voted to ratify a new contract with the Philharmonic, union spokesman Campbell MacDonald announced Friday.
The results of the mail-in ballots were tabulated Friday, and the musicians agreed to take a reduction in the number of paid weeks from 40 to 33, which will result in a 17.5 percent reduction in wages.
Although the concessions will reduce the amount of community outreach programs and performances, the union was able to preserve all positions for full-time and part-time musicians as well as health care coverage for individuals and their families.
The ratification forges one more step toward completing contract talks that started before the season opened in September. Negotiators reached a tentative agreement in November, but the talks trudged on for four months.
Philharmonic President and CEO J.L. Nave has said the next step in completing the contract is to have the Philharmonic board ratify it.
MacDonald said he believes the board has already discussed the terms of the contract, but he did not know whether there had been an official vote.
The union takes that action first, Nave said Wednesday before the vote. As soon I get word from the union on their process, we will go through our process. I would think we would have something definite in the near future.
Nave could not be reached for comment Friday.
If ratified, the contract will expire in December.
MacDonald said that since musicians agreed to concessions, they wanted a short-term contract that would allow the opportunity to regain their lost wages when both parties return to the bargaining table before the December deadline.
From a labor standpoint, when you agree to concessions, you often agree to a shorter term, he said.
This was something that was mutually agreed upon, the idea being that saving the operational budget will afford the Philharmonic and the board the opportunity to calculate more effectively.
The organization had a deficit of more than $2.3 million last year.
Nave said several staff reductions have been made in the past several months, with remaining staff taking a pay cut.
The Philharmonic’s administrative staff includes 14 full-time and six part-time employees. Nave said it’s the smallest staff in at least a decade.
Also, the musicians will be more involved with development and fundraising, MacDonald said.
We have to pull back in all areas, Nave said Wednesday. This is an incredible team and incredible staff that are very dedicated to come to work every day and try to make sure the Philharmonic serves the needs of the community.
We do this because we love what we do, and the people here are just very dedicated, he said. Sometimes that means working a little harder, a little more differently, but when you love what you do, it’s not too much to take on.
Although the reduction in paid weeks will affect the Philharmonic’s community activities, the new contract, if ratified, will save the orchestra from other concessions that were in the original contract proposed in September, MacDonald said. The union reported then that the Philharmonic’s proposal would reduce the musicians’ base salary from $27,221 to $16,408; reduce the number of full-time musicians from 44 to 27; and reduce the work week from 40 to 32 hours.
No one likes to make less money as they used to, but we also are not willing to sit by and let the quality of the Philharmonic decline, MacDonald said.
We don’t want to see our orchestra, which has been a pillar of the artistic community for decades in Fort Wayne, diminished. We were able to preserve the jobs in the Philharmonic, and that’s a positive for us.
We also have a lot of gratitude to the community, community leaders and political leaders who wrote letters to the press – we hold a deep gratitude to those people. When you consider the original offers, you saw a model going forward that would have gutted the organization artistically.