Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra musicians Sunday night rejected a new contract proposed by symphony management, setting the stage for a strike vote later this week.
The musicians, represented by the American Federation of Musicians Local 72-147, voted to reject a four-year deal that included annual income cuts ranging from 2 to 7.5 percent, the union said.
“This was unexpected. We are very disappointed, and the [Symphony] Association is reviewing its options,” Fort Worth Symphony President Amy Adkins said Sunday evening.
The symphony is scheduled to open its 2016-17 season Friday with a concert series featuring Dvorak’s New World Symphony. It is also scheduled to perform for the first time at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas on Sept. 16-18 with the Texas Ballet Theater.
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Union President Stewart Williams did not disclose the vote totals from Sunday’s rejection. A strike re-authorization vote has been set for Wednesday, and the union said it would be willing to return to the negotiating table on Labor Day.
“The negotiating team did all we could to bring the best offer we could from the management. Because of that, we recommended it to them,” Williams said in an interview Sunday evening. “This rejection shows that what the musicians still want is growth, not cuts, for the Fort Worth Symphony.”
Management and the union have been in federal mediation since July but have been in contract negotiations for more than 14 months. In January, the musicians authorized a strike after management said it would impose a concessionary contract for the rest of the performance season. But the two sides were able to reach a temporary agreement, which expired in July.
Both parties met through August and reached a tentative agreement for musicians to vote on.
The rejected proposal included fewer paid weeks during the season and an increase in the percentage that musicians had to pay for healthcare benefits, Williams said.
Although the cuts were less than the 9 percent cuts management proposed earlier this year, musicians would have endured pay cuts ranging from 1.5 to 6.5 percent in the first three years of the contract. A pay increase of 3.5 percent in the fourth year would have resulted in principal players being paid more than $70,000 a year.
Fort Worth Symphony musicians staged a sit-in at the orchestra offices near Bass Hall on Thursday after management canceled upcoming contract negotiation meetings.