Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Email Suggested 'Structural' Redo for City Symphony; Musicians Reveal Message, Question If Fiscal Situation Is as Serious as Touted

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Email Suggested 'Structural' Redo for City Symphony; Musicians Reveal Message, Question If Fiscal Situation Is as Serious as Touted

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra musicians said Friday the Jacksonville Symphony Association wants them to go on strike so "structural changes" can be made in the orchestra.

"We want to keep meeting and start the season," said Susan Pardue, a violist who heads the musicians' negotiating team. "The cuts they are proposing would be crippling to us. Some of us would lose our homes."

In a meeting with the Times-Union editorial board Friday, one week before the 2012-13 season is scheduled to begin, the musicians' negotiators presented an email from May 2011 that they said was an indication of a plan to break the union. They also produced a review of the symphony association's finances from 2004 to 2011 that they said painted a less dire picture than the board has presented.

COMPLAINT FILED

Liza Medina, a labor attorney who is representing the musicians, filed a complaint Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board charging the symphony association with "economic bad faith bargaining."

That was the day after the symphony association board voted to declare an impasse in the negotiations and impose its May offer, which would cut the base salaries of the musicians in the core orchestra by almost 20 percent.

Medina said there has been little bargaining going on, as the board negotiators have refused to move off that May proposal even as the musicians have made five different offers.

"We see a plan to go to a structural change," Medina said. "They want to shut down and reopen as something else."

She called the board negotiators "disinterested in problem solving."

In the meeting with the Times-Union editorial board, the musicians' negotiating team presented a printout of an email that the association's executive director, Stacy Ridenour, sent to Chris Dwyer, the orchestra personnel manager. It also went, apparently in error, to Andy Bruck, a violinist and member of the musicians' negotiating team.

In it, Ridenour said she hoped to discuss whether, in the event of a strike, the board should "go for a real structural change, not like the last time."

"The last time" was from November 2007 through January 2008, before Ridenour came to Jacksonville. The board locked out the musicians until a contract settlement was reached. That contract froze salaries for three years and cut pension benefits and personal days. The musicians sustained an average loss of $10,000 from salary they never received during the lockout, Bruck said.

At the time, the board said it was $3 million in debt and had been running deficits for a decade, the same argument it is making this year and made during negotiations in 2003.

In her email, Ridenour suggested that by cutting orchestra base salaries by 12 percent and making other changes in the contract with the musicians, the symphony might turn an $8 million annual budget into a $6. …

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