Jacksonville: $1.25 Mil. In Concessions But Lockout Ensues

Although a 15 hour negotiating session on December 14, 2007 yielded $1.25 million in concessions from musicians, the Jacksonville Symphony Association (JSA) and the Jacksonville Symphony Players’ Association (JSPA) were unable to craft a final agreement. As a result, the current lockout will continue well into the opening weeks of 2008. Furthermore, the JSA will carry out plans to cancel musician health care coverage at the end of December…

According to a musician spokesperson, most of the points in the
musician’s five year offer were agreed on in principle between both
sides. These included:

  • A salary freeze for the first three years, a 2.5 percent increase in year four, and a 3 percent increase in year five.
  • 37 week season for the term of the contract.
  • Switching to a new health insurance provider that includes coverage for domestic partners.
  • Eliminating three overscale positions for titled chairs. These positions would revert to the base pay formula.

The majority of outstanding items consisted of a much smaller percent of the concessions the JSA has been calling for. These include:

  • Per-service pay scale (per service musicians are most
    often substitute players). Currently, the JSA is proposing a 20 percent
    average reduction in per-service scale.

  • A .5 percent difference in pension contributions during the contract term (musicians are asking for 6 percent for the entire term whereas the JSA proposed 5.5 percent for the first three years and then 6 percent for the final two).
  • Work rule language related to personal leave days.

One area where the JSA was willing to consider concessions
on their part was what to do with the musician’s lost pay during the
lockout. According to the musician’s spokesperson, the JSA agreed to
fold that pay into future seasons, thereby allowing a pay freeze as
opposed to a pay cut in the first three years of the contract.

Perhaps most disheartening is that even though the bargaining
session produced significant concessions from the musicians, the JSA
has informed the JSPA Negotiating Committee that they will not be able
to meet again until Tuesday, January 8, 2007. Furthermore, since all of
the above issues were agreed on only in principle, the JSA will cancel musician health care coverage at the end of December, 2007.

Given how close both sides came to reaching requirements
initially set forth by the JSA, it is discouraging to see the JSA
refuse to schedule any additional bargaining sessions in an effort to avert terminating health care coverage. Calls to the JSA asking
about the December 14 bargaining session were not returned.

In the meantime, the JSO musicians are giving two benefit
concerts. The first on Friday, December 21 features pianist Leon
Fleisher will perform Mozart’s Concerto for 2 Pianos with Katherine Jacobson Fleisher and lead the orchestra in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. The second event is a Messiah
Sing-Along on Saturday, December 22. Admission to both events is free
and tax-deductible donations to the JSPA’s Health & Welfare Fund
will be accepted. For more information about either concert event or to
make a donation online, you can visit the JSPA website. Jacksonville Symphony ticket holders and patrons may contact the JSA box office at 904-354-5547 or visit the organization’s website for information about scheduled concert events.

On a related note, Edmonton Symphony music director and co-author of Sticks and Drones published a wonderful op-ed piece which brings the lockout mess into razor-sharp clarity. Similarly, a recent post
from Charleston City Paper arts editor, John Stoehr, paints an equally
clear picture of the possible motives behind the lack of involvement
among senior political leaders in Jacksonville. Both articles are worth
your time.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “Jacksonville: $1.25 Mil. In Concessions But Lockout Ensues”

  1. I find it such a mystery what the Board expects to do with the money it has in its endowment, which really belongs to the Orchestra, which is the sole reason for such an endowment. They act as if the money is the Board’s. So, if they have no orchestra, where does that money go? Do they really think they can slap together a first class ensemble in a few months to take its place? Fools and Philistines, all! It took, from 1971-2007, to create an ensemble of the quality of the present one. Many of those playing now, started their career then, with others coming to add to the growing excellence of the orchestra. Only sadly, musically-retarded thinking could imagine that there is a quick and easy fix for financial “problems” by destroying what has worked so well and brought credit to the community. Patheticly, it is corporate thinking, coupled with a Southern tendency to be risk adverse. If someone else hasn’t done it, before, then no one has the imagination or the guts to invent new solutions.

    Eddins is correct in his assessment of the good ole boy network, and unfortunately, any future conductor or musician looking at vacancies at the JSO will look very carefully at making commitment to such a sorry management and board. I’m so mad I could spit!

  2. I’ve read Tom Beames’ email several times and have a different way of looking at his words. I read it to mean that the image of kids at Christmas may impact the BOARD’s resolve, not an impact on the muscians. OR, it could reflect a genuine concern for children.

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