April 27, 2021
Philharmonic Latest Contract Proposal Maintains all Contracted Musicians
Hopeful to Announce Summer Season and Full 21-22 Season Soon
Today the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Board of Directors and Management provided an update on the ongoing contract negotiations with the American Federation of Musicians, and Local 58 Fort Wayne Musicians Association. The Philharmonic negotiating team enthusiastically returned to the negotiating table for the first time in six months on April 2. Subsequent discussions on April 15 and 21 continued work on the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. The Philharmonic has made several advancements forward, including agreeing to maintain all current core and per-service musicians. It also offers to maintain musician’s current weekly salaries at 100% of the last collectively bargained agreement pay scale.
The Philharmonic agreed to maintain all current core (44) and per- service musicians (19) – with no musician reductions. Instead, plans are to reduce the number of weeks the orchestra plays each season from 33 to 28. This reduction in weeks allows the Philharmonic some of the financial flexibility it needs to respond to the ongoing COVID crisis, while enabling the musicians of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic to earn approximately 85% of their overall yearly compensation. To supplement next season’s reduction of weeks, an additional seven weeks of work for summer 2021 has also been added to the financial package for the musicians.
The Philharmonic has also agreed to pay 99% of musician healthcare coverage until Aug. 31, 2021. Then, after that and with a new agreement, insurance rates will return to the previous 70% employer paid coverage rate from past contracts. As the Board of Directors cares deeply for the welfare of its musicians, this temporary healthcare increase provides much needed assistance to respond to the challenges of these extraordinary times. Additionally, the Philharmonic has accepted numerous COVID guidelines to ensure the safety of the musicians, staff, and patrons. This includes reducing the time spent on stage to a maximum of 90 minutes and spacing out the orchestra to allow for social distancing on stage.
Once accepted, the musicians will also receive a one-time furlough off set payment of an additional $1,000 for core members and $500 for per service musicians. Chair Chuck Surack along with the Board of Directors supports the negotiating team’s efforts. Surack said, “The Philharmonic understands this past year has not been easy and that these negotiations have gone on long enough. It is imperative that the organization makes operational changes to weather this storm. We hope that by addressing the concerns of the musicians we are able to get back to making the music we love.”
In total, musicians will retain approximately 85% of their pay during the 2021-2022 performance Season. This is comparable or better than other orchestras across the country which have also had to make serious reductions to musician contracts for the coming season in reaction to the ongoing pandemic. The Minnesota Orchestral Association and its musicians agreed to a 25% reduction in compensation that will last through 2022. Among the longest lasting reductions is the New York Philharmonic which announced a 25% cut to musician pay that will last through 2024.
Despite the Philharmonic’s forward moving position to return music to the community, the musician’s union is still demanding roughly 100% compensation for the 2021-2022 Season. These demands do not allow the Philharmonic to address any of the adverse COVID financial impacts, including attrition of audiences and earned ticket revenues. The Philharmonic is hopeful that the musicians will negotiate in good faith such that a resolution can be reached in time to announce a summer season.
This situation occurs against the backdrop of the ongoing global pandemic and the operational disruptions that have reverberated throughout the country and through nonprofit organizations like the Philharmonic. In the last year, the Philharmonic was forced to cancel dozens of concerts and events, including the entirety of its 2020-21 subscription Season. In addition to concert cancellations, the Philharmonic staff size has been reduced by 36%. The Philharmonic Board of Directors generously paid its full and part time musicians in full for nearly 5.5 months from mid-March 2020 through Aug. 31, including a week of pay for “opt in” summer concerts that were cancelled.
The musicians failed to respond to an Aug. 31, 2020 deadline for a slate of fall community performances that would have paid them approximately 70% of their pay for 50% work, including 99% of their health care, but despite the failure to reach an agreement, the Board once again generously committed to pay 99% of musician health care premiums through Jan. 31, 2021. Since last September, the Philharmonic negotiating team has offered several more avenues of employment to musicians, including pay for musician teachers to serve the Club Orchestra program for the Fort Wayne Community Schools and one-off projects, but all were declined by the musicians.
To fulfill its mission, “To foster and instill a lifelong love of symphonic music through performance and education,” the Philharmonic must protect the institution’s future and financial stability. As an outgrowth of extreme financial pressures, including the projected loss of $1,000,000 in ticket sales, unknown potential capacity restrictions, and the attrition of audiences after over a year-long period without concerts, changes and adjustments need to be made now that will help create a more flexible and nimble organization that can navigate these difficult times and position the organization for a post COVID-19 return.
As the Philharmonic navigates the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that it implement a more flexible operating system that will reduce financial pressures on the contributed and earned revenue required to operate. These adjustments to the contractual needs of the organization will allow the Philharmonic to respond to a rapidly changing marketplace while focusing both on the short- and long-term needs of the organization. The Philharmonic remains optimistic that a new contract can soon be reached, and the organization will continue its mission of bringing music to Northeast Indiana.