Players blast Minnesota Orchestra moves

But Minnesota Orchestra's CEO says he did what was necessary.

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The players of the Minnesota Orchestra, who are in lock-out over their contract, held a concert at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Oct. 18.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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The impasse between Minnesota Orchestra musicians and management remained Monday after the musicians criticized financial decisions made over the past several years, based on information gleaned from orchestra board-meeting minutes.

At a Monday news conference, Tim Zavadil, leader of the musicians' negotiating team, questioned the board's "hiding large deficits" during the recession so as not to negatively affect fundraising for a new hall and a bonding request before the Legislature.

Zavadil also wondered why management chose to draw larger amounts from its endowments than the 5 percent generally accepted as prudent.

Minutes from a 2010 finance committee meeting show members being advised that "a draw over 5 percent is irresponsible."

In response, orchestra president Michael Henson said Monday that he and the board had to find "short-term solutions" to the deficits, with a goal of returning to long-term stabilization. "We had a legally binding contract to increase the musicians' salaries, and then we had to reset our business model to have both a world-class and sustainable orchestra," he said.

Zavadil also said musicians had not been informed of the full extent of the orchestra's financial woes.

Henson responded that a number of meetings had been held with the musicians since the beginning of the recession "to explain that we were going to honor their contract, but that a reset [of the business model] was going to have to happen. We were very transparent about the extent of the problems."

"The perception of the board's actions will make the negotiations even more difficult," said John Budd, an industrial relations expert at the University of Minnesota. "The musicians were already questioning whether contract concessions of the magnitude demanded by the board are necessary, and the new information about the board's actions ... will likely deepen the musicians' skepticism and therefore reinforce their opposition to the concession demands."

Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046

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