Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra negotiations end with no deal

Next weekends season opening concerts will go on

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra broke off negotiations with the musicians union Saturday afternoon without a new deal in place.

The performers rejected the last and final offer from the symphony after hours of deliberating. The musicians say they plan to play at their first practice Wednesday and at the season's first scheduled performance on Friday.

"We pay $4 million in salaries. We've cut everywhere else. We now need to cut there," said Martin Connor, co-chairman of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.

Saturday was the final meeting between the symphony and the musicians union for their new contract. The musicians rejected the symphony's final offer, which included a nearly 20 percent pay cut. They said it would not only undermine the quality of the symphony and its musicians, but their livelihood as well.

"We want a liveable wage. We want to be paid for the quality we are," said Peter Wright, president of the musicians' union.

The contract with Local 444 of the American Federation of Musicians expired Sept. 2, and the symphony's board of directors on Tuesday declared an impasse and said it would implement its last offer to the orchestra's 53 core players.

On the union's website, the Jacksonville Symphony Players' Association Negotiating Committee wrote that the musician took a minimum of $10,000 pay cut seven years ago, then worked four years without any increase and only had a small increase the last two years.

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