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Columbus Symphony, musicians' union resume labor talks

Leaders of the financially struggling Columbus Symphony Orchestra and their musicians' union met this afternoon for the first time in nearly two months. Union reps walked out of their last meeting, after the board proposed cutting 22 of the symphony's 53 full-time positions.

CSO executive director Tony Beadle said just before the meeting he didn't expect much in terms of progress. He said they'd be dealing mainly with what he called housekeeping issues like scheduling future meetings.

The two sides have been at odds since January when the CSO board approached the union with a strategic plan. Beadle says many corporate donors told the CSO board they were cutting off donations until the symphony stopped operating under a deficit.

With corporate gifts declining, Beadle says the board drafted a plan that cuts the annual budget down to about nine and a half million dollars.

"The strategic plan also proposes one way of doing that, which is to reduce the number of full-time musicians, eliminating 22 full-time positions," Beadle says. "But that's not the only route. How we get there is a subject of union negotiations."

Beadle says the board is considering several alternatives, including asking the city and state for money.

As he alluded to, any job cuts would have to be collectively bargained. While repeated calls seeking comment from union leaders were not returned, union president Doug Fisher has been openly critical of the cuts. He recently said no orchestra has ever solved its problems by firing 40 percent of its players. Beadle says the two sides will continue to talk.

He says while they're far from agreeing on the strategic plan, it is possible to have an agreement in place before the symphony's current contract expires in August.