Orchestra musicians reject another management offer

Doug Wright
Doug Wright, a member of the Minnesota Orhestra musicians negotiating committee, announces the results of a vote on the latest offer from management on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr

Locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra Saturday unanimously rejected a contract offer from orchestra management. Musicians say the offer was "artistically unsustainable" and would do long-term damage to the orchestra.

Doug Wright, a member of the musician's negotiating committee, says the offer, which cuts salaries by almost 18 percent over three years, was based on a management business model which believes classical music is dead.

"This regressive model does not fit this community. Therefore we cannort support it and the community does not support it."

The musicians say they do not believe Monday is a hard deadline for a deal to prevent the departure of music director Osmo Vanska. They say they will present new proposals to mediator George Mitchell in hopes of reaching a deal.

"There have been numerous deadlines this month," said Wright. "There have been numerous deadlines this whole time. So I don't know. But I do know we are standing ready, prepared to meet with the mediator, with the other side, all weekend long, until we can get this thing solved."

Wright says management's offer would cut salaries so much that current players would leave, and it would be hard to attract new musicians.

In a statement, the Minnesota Orchestra Board of Directors expressed disappointment that musicians rejected the offer.

"This was a true compromise, and we are disappointed that the musicians have not yet indicated a similar willingness to compromise or to offer a serious proposal of their own," the statement said.

Orchestra president and CEO Michael Henson says musicians are not recognizing the organization's large financial challenges.

"Great art has got to be at the center of what we are doing, but we have to actually have a contract that enables us to look well into the future, just not for the next four months, but for a contract that actually has to look towards three years, five years and to enable us to plan 10 and 20 years in advance," Henson said.

Henson says he believes a deal is still possible.

"We still have the rest of the weekend and the start of Monday to resolve this. I have always said this is possible if both parties are willing to come to the table and negotiate."

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