Feds to review if symphony negotiated in bad faith

Headline Goes Here Photo by Paul Witkowski

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The National Labor Relations Board has notified the Jacksonville Symphony Association it will investigate the American Federation of Musicians' allegations that management was negotiating in bad faith.

The symphony and its musicians have been at an impasse since September after management broke off months of contract negotiations and said it would implement its final contract offer.

The symphony issued a statement Friday saying, "It is important to understand that this complaint merely makes allegations based on charges filed by the union. It is not a finding by the NLRB that the symphony has violated the law in any respect."

The symphony's concert season is continuing on schedule as management did not lock out the musicians, who agreed to work without a contract while awaiting a ruling from the NLRB on its complaint.

"We felt strongly that a professional orchestra is important to the economic viability of a city this size and believe it's our duty to ensure that the music continues to play, " said Peter Wright, president of union local 444. "Throughout this process we remained sympathetic to their issues, but feel that our issues have fallen on deaf ears. Accepting their cuts would mean each musician would be making less than a 'living wage' with no opportunity for secondary employment to make up the difference. We know there are other, better ways to meet the JSO's financial challenges."

A hearing will be scheduled before an administrative law judge where all parties will have an opportunity to present evidence and make arguments.  There was no indication of how soon a hearing would be scheduled.

"We welcome this opportunity to fully present our side of the story," said Richard Pierpont, the Symphony Association's chairman. "We are confident the judge will conclude that the symphony has bargained in completely good faith. Of course, we still want to reach agreement with the musicians and their union and will continue to make every effort to do so."

The union says it offered to accept more than $1.3 million in concessions over 15 bargaining sessions before talks broke off. The musicians say its continued offer of concessions has been met with offers of "draconian cuts to pay and benefits."

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