FORT WAYNE – The Fort Wayne Philharmonic and Fort Wayne Philharmonic Players Association reached a tentative agreement for a new contract late Thursday, officials announced Friday.
The contract will now be presented to the musicians and the Philharmonic board for ratification.
J.L. Nave, president and CEO of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, said Friday that members of the negotiating teams shook hands after a nearly nine-hour discussion Thursday, ending the first phase of negotiations that have been going on since April.
Before the contracts can be finalized, the contract will need to be ratified. Details of the agreement were not released pending ratification; votes are expected to take place over the next two weeks. Rehearsals and concerts will continue as scheduled under the expired four-year contract.
The musicians’ four-year contract ended in August, but negotiations began in April because of the orchestra’s financial concerns. The Philharmonic continues to run a deficit, which was reported this year at more than $2.3 million.
Nave said there have been significant changes made to the proposal the musicians’ union released in September that included reducing the number of musicians and full-time salaries. That proposal caused the musicians to give the negotiating team the right to call a strike if changes were not made.
Nave said working with musicians on fundraising opportunities and future plans was a part of the discussion.
Campbell McDonald, a representative for the musicians’ union, said in an email Friday he will not be able to comment until the union conducts a vote to ratify the contract.
It feels wonderful, Nave said. A lot of people have been working on this for well over a year now, and this has taken a lot longer than I’m sure both sides had hoped it would take, but these are difficult issues and these are significant challenges.
I’m really happy both sides stuck with it even though we are several weeks beyond what we expected. We both wanted to find a solution we could agree on.
Nave said the Philharmonic Board of Directors has scheduled a meeting at the beginning of December when the contract will have to be ratified by majority vote. The union will conduct a separate meeting to vote.
Although this agreement could potentially end the lengthy contract discussions, Nave said he has never liked to predict an outcome.
What has been negotiated has been within the discussion with the board, but it is ultimately up to the board to decide and the Players Association as well. It’s not finished until it’s finished.