A member of the musicians' negotiating committee said Friday that the Minnesota Orchestra's management would have had no incentive to talk under the so-called "play and talk" contract the musicians rejected Thursday.
"Within our industry, the notion of 'play and talk' means that you keep performing under the old agreement while you continue to perform concerts," said Timothy Zavadil, a clarinetist and negotiator. "It is not 'play and talk' if there is a predetermined result at the end, which is what that proposal contained. And that predetermined result was a 25-percent pay cut for the musicians."
"The MOA has sought 30 to 50 percent pay cuts up til this point, so the 25-percent pay cut would be been guaranteed and in place. I suppose if you wanted to look at it the other way, you could say perhaps we could have gotten a 25-percent raise. The reality is, you just are not going to sign a contract where there seems to be no incentive for management to even come to the table."
Zavadil emphasized that the musicians still want to work through the confidential mediation process, which reportedly involves former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell. He said that reaching a mediated agreement was "doable" in time to meet a series of deadlines leading to scheduled performances at Carnegie Hall in early November. Director Osmo Vanska has suggested that he may resign if those deadlines are not met.
"We are involved in a mediation process, with a very influential, highly esteemed mediator," he said. "That mediator has heard arguments from both sides, and has put forth a proposal, a way to move forward. That is what we have accepted, that is what we view as the best way to proceed, to get back to the table, to get the orchestra back on stage, ensure that the Carnegie concerts happen, ensure Osmo Vanska's tenure, ensure that the hall opens. There is a way forward that has been put forth by the mediator, and that's what we are supporting and that's what we are asking our board and management to come back to."
Zavadil said the role of the mediator was important because of the lack of trust between musicians and management. The negotiating process needs "a truly independent third-party voice to come in and help rebuild the trust between both parties," he said.
"The way to go forward has been set forth by the mediator, in a process that was started by the governor. The MOA issued us a proposal the other day that stated clearly that they were stepping outside of the mediation process. The way to move forward is under the mediator's auspices, under that proposal, with the help of an independent third-party mediator."
The locked-out musicians announced Thursday that they had rejected a management offer to play for two months under their old contract and then, if no new agreement is reached, to play for two years with a 25-percent pay cut.