Minn. Orchestra seeks big cut in musician salaries

Minnesota Orchestra
The Minnesota Orchestra, in an undated file photo.
Photo by Greg Helgeson, courtesy Minnesota Orchestra

Minnesota Orchestra management said Wednesday it is looking to reduce its musicians' average salaries by more than $40,000 a year.

After months of revealing little about ongoing contract negotiations with musicians, the Minnesota Orchestra Wednesday published its latest contract proposal on its website.

PRIMER: What you need to know about the Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO contract negotiations

Under the proposal, the average wage of a musician in the orchestra would drop from $135,000 to $89,000, according to a management summary. Work conditions would also be changed.

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Musicians' pay makes up 48 percent of the orchestra's budget, according to management, and in the face of looming deficits the orchestra cannot resolve its financial problems without musicians' participation.

A representative of the musicians told MPR News that they heeded the call to become one of the world's great orchestras, but now they are being offered less than world-class wages.

The proposal would mean the loss of top players and threaten the the future of the entire organization, said musician negotiating committee member Doug Wright.

"I think they are trying to manipulate our local public against us, drive a wedge between us and our public," Wright said. "I think it is really sad."

The current contract between the Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians expires on Sept. 30. The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is also involved in contract negotiations with its musicians, and its current contract ends on the same day.