Minnesota Orchestra labor dispute is over

Minnesota Orchestra labor dispute is over
Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra

The lockout of the Minnesota Orchestral musicians ended Tuesday when the board and musicians agreed to a new three-year contract, returning to the stage as soon as next month.

"Both sides have compromised and the good news is we have reached a settlement," orchestra president and CEO Michael Henson said.

SEE ALSO: Minnesota Orchestra's Osmo Vanska: Please do not applaud

Initially, the board had proposed to cut salaries by as much as 40 percent. After 15 months of negotiations, the terms of the new contract include a 15-percent slash to salaries, seven new hires, and revenue sharing based on the performance of the Orchestra's endowments. Minimum base salaries will be $96,824 in the first year, $99,008 in the second and $102,284 in the third.

Previously, the orchestra board had offered to cut salaries between 22 and 40 percent. The average salary would have come out to $89,000, but it was rejected and the musicians were locked out of Orchestral Hall on October 1, 2012. The entire 2012-2013 season was cancelled.

Though reduced, the new salaries keep the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra among the ten best paid orchestras in the nation -- which was important for many community members. An open letter from the musicians put it this way:

Keeping salaries in the top ten was a critical issue as it allows the orchestra to attract and retain the finest musicians in the country, building on the tradition of excellence that has been cultivated by the community over many generations.

The musicians also agreed Tuesday to give chamber and outreach performances without more pay. The number of weekend rehearsals and concerts were increased -- including possible New Year's Eve and New Year's Day performances.

To prevent another breakdown in communication, the board says the two sides agreed to quarterly meetings.

There's no word yet on how far the cuts will go towards plugging the orchestra's budget shortfall. Previously, the orchestra has dropped the number $2.2 million, but an analysis by a New York financial firm, released in September, suggested the number was much higher.

"We still have fundraising challenges in front of us," Henson, the orchestra CEO, said.

Elections will be held in a few weeks for a new board chair, replacing Jon Campbell, who the board agreed would stay in the job until a resolution had been reached. In a statement released by the orchestra, Campbell urged classical music-lovers to continue their support through concert attendance and private donations.

The elephant in the room is the conductor's post. Once the prized centerpiece of the hall, Osmo Vanska resigned in protest this fall.

Next week, the board is expected to announce the artistic plans for the rest of the season.


-- Follow Jesse Marx on Twitter @marxjesse or send tips to [email protected]

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