The Cracow Philharmonic of Poland is performing at the annual festival of opera rarities in southeastern Ireland.
In a statement, the festival said that the only Irish orchestra of sufficient size for its purposes was the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, but that RTê_, the national broadcaster and the orchestra's parent organization, had demanded an exorbitant rate.
"Despite protracted negotiations over three years and more, we have not been able to reach agreement with RTê_," said festival chairman Paul Hennessy. "To agree to the terms offered by RTê_ would be grossly irresponsible."
In its own statement, the union said that taking annual funding from the Irish government obligated the festival to hire local musicians. Union secretary John Swift also expressed concern that the Cracow Philharmonic was being underpaid.
"The issue is essentially one of cheap labor and fears that the Cracow orchestra has been engaged on terms and conditions significantly below EU standard," Swift said.
Hennessy rejected both arguments.
"We have always been prepared to pay market rates, but do not see why we should be expected to pay more than this," he said. "Indeed we fail to understand why it is necessary to pay more for the services of an Irish orchestra than it is for a comparable European alternative."
He added that the high cost of hiring the NSOI would endanger the festival's financial health. "As a publicly funded body, we have an obligation to ensure that we spend responsibly," he said.