Lockout set to take effect for Minn. Orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra planned to lock out its musicians at midnight Sunday. The move came after a last-ditch meeting to reach a contract deal failed, and management declined to extend the current contract while continuing negotiations.

Musicians' negotiator Tim Zavadil said the latest contract offer contained cuts so drastic that many top players will leave. He says even the possibility of a lockout has resulted in musicians being offered work elsewhere.

"We can tell you now," Zavadil said, "that even amongst the musicians now, we are fielding calls from other orchestras who have heard that we will be locked out who are asking us to come perform with them."

Zavadil said the musicians had asked to adopt binding arbitration and to leave the existing contract in place while talks continued, but he says management rejected both proposals.

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"It's our intention to avoid a work stoppage," he said. "We want to start the season. We want to keep performing, and we want to play and talk. They were not interested in that. We have been promised they will lock us out at midnight tonight.

A management statement released late Sunday afternoon after the meeting said officials were disappointed that musicians have not come forward with a counterproposal to an offer delivered almost six months ago. The statement also said that the orchestra's management hoped musicians will "come to the table with a reasonable counter and negotiate with us."

The management has said that with a nearly $3 million deficit this year and others likely in the future, it needs significant concessions from the musicians to preserve the orchestra.

Meanwhile. musicians and management at the St. Paul Chamber orchestra wrapped up a negotiation session by agreeing to keep talking beyond their current contract, which also was due to expire at midnight Sunday. They will next meet to talk on Oct. 10.