ADVERTISEMENT

Members of the Minnesota Orchestra performed at Colonial Church in Edina recently.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

Musicians facing lockout if no deal

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE
  • Star Tribune
  • September 28, 2012 - 12:05 AM

Minnesota Orchestra musicians will vote on Saturday whether to accept a contract proposal that management has characterized as its "final offer."

If the musicians reject the deal and if talks on Sunday fail to produce an agreement, the board has indicated it will lock the musicians out.

The Minnesota Orchestra last had a work stoppage in 1994.

The board's proposal would reduce the average annual musician salary to $89,000 from $135,000. The deal would include guarantees of 10 weeks of paid vacation each year, a company pension contribution of 7.63 percent and up to 26 weeks of paid sick leave for musicians with 11 or more years of experience. The proposal mirrors the offer made when negotiations started in April.

The musicians' union has not offered a counterproposal.

In a letter that accompanied the final offer, the board stated that "all employees in the bargaining unit ... shall be locked out effective at midnight Monday," when the current five-year contract expires.

A lockout prevents employees from reporting to work or receiving pay. Musicians may still picket in the case of a lockout. However, Orchestra Hall is undergoing renovation and will not be used for concerts when the season begins Oct. 18 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Dan McConnell, business manager of the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, said workers on the $52 million project are governed by an agreement that prevents them from joining a work stoppage. "We're certainly sensitive to the musicians, but it would be a violation of our contract if we were to walk out," McConnell said.

Also Thursday, music director Osmo Vänskä released a statement that said it is not his role to be involved in negotiations. "These are difficult times, but I believe our Board and our musicians will find the right solution to take good care of this great orchestra," said Vänskä, who has declined interview requests.

Musicians at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra agreed to a two-year contract on Wednesday after a three-week lockout. The deal reportedly will result in $2.4 million in annual savings. Annual base salary in Atlanta will be $73,876 under the deal, and the size of the orchestra will decrease from 93 to 88.

At the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, which also has a labor contract that expires Sunday, the two sides have passed proposals back and forth this week. Meetings are planned for Saturday and Sunday.

The St. Paul musicians oppose a management proposal to fund a retirement incentive for older players and a lower salary for new musicians. "We think they have the money but they are not spending the money correctly," bassoonist Carole Mason Smith said in an interview on Thursday.

Chairman Dobson West, in a memo rejecting the latest union proposal, wrote that musicians' minimum annual salaries have increased by 12.5 percent from July 2008.

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299

© 2014 Star Tribune