Musicians with Symphony Nova Scotia will be leafleting patrons at performances of the Nutcracker and Messiah this month after talks between the conciliator and the union broke down.
The conciliator met with the Symphony Nova Scotia Society management and the negotiating team for its musicians on Monday. According to the musicians, he found little common ground.
The players are part of Local 571 of the American Federation of Musicians. Contract talks between the parties first broke down in October.
The main issue is the salaries paid to musicians, who work 33 weeks a year, full-time.
A section musician makes just over $28,000 before taxes. The musicians are asking for more work and want a raise of three per cent a year.
Kirsty Money, a first violinist, has been with the symphony for 13 years and chairs the musicians' negotiating team.
She said this is the first time in 30 years that labour relations have been this bad at the Symphony.
"The life of a professional orchestral musician is not a nine to five job," she said. "We work evenings and we work on holidays. To try and fit in what society views as a normal job into that is very difficult."
She said some of the players have resorted to collecting Employment Insurance.
"We knew when we undertook this profession we wouldn't be laughing all the way to the the bank. We knew that. I didn't think I would find myself in such a low wage position. I thought I'd at least be able to make a living wage."
Money said many Halifax residents are unaware of the quality of musicians who work for Symphony Nova Scotia.
She said they have more training than most surgeons, and have to practice and remain ready to perform at a very high level year-round.
"If this orchestra were in a bigger centre like Toronto or Montreal then of course they could freelance and make more money."
Money said she is very conflicted about leafleting during the Christmas season, but said part of her job is to communicate with people that the musicians are crucial to the symphony.