Frustrated by leaks in what were supposed to be confidential bargaining sessions, the Minnesota Orchestra board took its case directly to the public Thursday, releasing details of a proposal to end the 11-month lockout of musicians.
The proposal is essentially the same as one that musicians rejected in July after it was presented through the offices of former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, the veteran negotiator brought in to help settle the dispute.
Board members have said that leaks of some of those details, and of another proposal that Mitchell brokered, put management at a disadvantage in the public-relations war with its musicians over what has become the longest labor dispute of its kind nationwide.
“We have continued to abide by confidentiality, and we have not discussed the proposals,” said orchestra CEO Michael Henson. “Today, we want to discuss them, so we have reissued the offer outside the mediation.”
Henson implied that the musicians had breached confidentiality.
“We did not leak them,” he said of the two proposals that have been disclosed.
Musicians’ spokesman Blois Olson said the proposal is “one we’ve already rejected.”
Dayton calls for settlement
In a statement, the musicians criticized the board for “abandoning the mediator they recommended.” The statement called on political leaders — including Gov. Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak — to step in.
Dayton said Thursday that he had no direct knowledge of the recent developments and could not comment on them.
“My position remains the same,” Dayton said. “The musicians and the board should settle — now.”
Henson said the board is not abandoning Mitchell’s efforts.
If musicians agree to negotiate, Mitchell would be engaged in mediation, he said.
“Sen. Mitchell continues to be the mediator,” Henson said. “We are happy to negotiate directly or go through mediation, but the big picture is to find a resolution.”
Deficit would continue
The board said that under the terms of the two-year contract, the orchestra would accrue a deficit of $2.2 million.
“Our aim was to eliminate our deficit entirely,” said Board Chairman Jon Campbell. He said that if musicians do not like this proposal, they should issue one of their own.
The board asked musicians to vote on the proposal by Sept. 9.
Musicians have argued for a play-and-talk proposal Mitchell authored.
It would get players back by Sept. 1 for two months at their old salaries.
If no deal is struck, they would continue working two more months at a 6 percent pay cut — with the lockout presumably resuming if no agreement was reached.
The board has rejected that proposal.
Campbell said that plan would cost $2.8 million for four months with no assurance of a longer-term concessionary deal.
“A short-term agreement does not allow us to mount a full concert season, and we simply cannot burden our ticket holders again with the rounds of cancellations they endured this past year,” Campbell said in a statement.
Staff writer Baird Helgeson contributed to this report.