Financial viability of orchestra in dispute
The new season of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra begins Friday. But if the disagreements between the Jacksonville Symphony Association and employees are reflected in the music, expect everything to be out of tune.
On Tuesday the union representing Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra musicians offered to cut their pay by 3 percent for the next two years. That would lower the base pay of the 53 musicians from $40,155 a year to about $38,950.
That reduction will pay for two years, with orchestra members then going back to their current salaries in the third year.
“We continue to make a good faith effort, and are offering concessions we feel are unnecessary but may get both parties to an agreeable contract that is fair for all involved,” said Peter Wright, the orchestra’s principal clarinetist and the president of local 444 of the American Federation of Music.
Management has demanded the union take a 20 percent cut in salary, to about $32,308 per year.
This would also involve a drop from a 37 week season to 33 weeks. The union’s counterproposal restores a 37 week season, Wright said.
Symphony board-Chairman-elect Martin Connor, said the offer was a positive first step.
“We are delighted that they seem to be willing to concede that there are financial troubles,” Connor said. “But this offer would still leave us with a loss of over $1 million.
Even with the cuts being proposed by management, the Orchestra still expects to lose over $300,000 this year, Connor said.
“It’s important to point out that we’re making cuts across the board,” he said. “It’s not just to the orchestra.”
Management and the union also disagree on the financial status of the organization.
Management claims the financial situation is precarious with a $3 million deficit and $1.1 million lost in the last three years, while union officials argue that taking additional interest from the $14 million in endowment and foundation accounts would help add additional funds to the operating budget each year.
The association has about $7.5 million in assets invested, drawing about 5 percent interest each year on that money for operating expenses. The Jacksonville Symphony Foundation also has more than $6 million invested, with the symphony getting about $329,000 in revenue this year.
Wright said an additional $280,000 in money could become available by using seven percent of the interest instead of five.
But Connor disputes that, and said that $4.2 million of the association money has been posted as collateral to secure a $3.6 million line of credit, and another $1.8 million is restricted funds provided by the state of Florida, with the symphony only entitled to the income generated off of that money.
That leaves only about $1.5 million left, which is not enough to pay the debts the symphony has, Connor said.
Management also argues that it can’t just take the $6 million from the Jacksonville Symphony Foundation because it’s a charitable foundation governed by it’s own bylaws.
“And even if we did take more money from our reserves,” Connor said. “We’d be stuck with the same problem next year.”
Union members had the option to strike, but last week said they would not do that. A complaint has been filed with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the symphony association has engaged in “economic bad faith bargaining.”
Larry Hannan: (904) 359-4470