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Marcia Peck, right, takes her turn answering questions at the Saturday morning press conference with Doug Wright, left, and Kevin Watkins. Minnesota Orchestra musicians voted 60-0 Saturday against an offer from management.

Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

Weekend brings no progress in Minnesota Orchestra dispute

  • Article by: Graydon Royce
  • Star Tribune
  • September 29, 2013 - 8:27 PM

 

Board negotiators for the Minnesota Orchestra have not received a counterproposal since musicians unanimously rejected an offer on Saturday, according to a management spokesperson.

A deadline looms this week on several dominoes that could result in the departure of music director Osmo Vänskä, if no resolution is reached in the bitter 18-month dispute.

Vänskä has stated that he would resign if the orchestra musicians were not able to rehearse this week. He said the ensemble needs time to prepare for concerts at Carnegie Hall in early November.

Vänskä has said nothing in recent days to contradict his earlier statement. Presumably, then, if no deal is struck Monday that returns musicians to the stage, Vänskä will have a decision to make about his future with the orchestra.

Announcing the vote Saturday morning outside Orchestra Hall, spokesman Blois Olson said the musicians were preparing several counteroffers and called this “a very fluid situation.”

However, board negotiator Doug Kelley said Sunday his team had received no proposal. “There have been no substantive talks at all this weekend,” he said.

In response, Olson said a counterproposal was delivered last week, with a request for a private-ballot vote by the full board by noon Monday. Kelley said Olson was referring to request that the board vote on a plan from mediator George Mitchell to lift the lockout and return musicians to work for four months (including two months at slightly reduced salary) during which the two sides would negotiate.

“We did not consider that to be a counterproposal,” Kelley said in a phone interview. “That was simply a request for us to revisit a decision that had already been made by the board of directors. The board of directors unanimously rejected that proposal on Aug. 12.”

The board proposal, delivered Thursday, would have cut minimum salaries by 18.6 percent in the first year, by a smaller amount in year two, and to 25 percent in the third year of the contract. In addition, each of 84 musicians would have received $20,000 signing bonuses.

Musicians said the offer was regressive and would not sustain the artistic integrity of the Orchestra.

“This proposal will not keep our finest players here,” said Doug Wright, a member of the musicians’ negotiating team. “[It] will not keep the Minnesota Orchestra a great orchestra, period.”

Musicians have steadfastly contended that the cuts will damage the reputation and the ability to attract top players to a world-class orchestra. They support the proposal Mitchell made last summer.

Vänskä’s statements about resigning from the position he has held since 2003 is tied to the two Carnegie Hall dates in November. He considers them vital to his Minnesota tenure and said in a statement to the board that he felt it necessary to have musicians back this week. Since musicians typically have Mondays off, the first rehearsal would be Tuesday morning.

The Orchestra’s subscription season was to have started this coming Friday with concerts featuring pianist Emanuel Ax. Those have now been canceled. The musicians have said they will perform with Ax this weekend at Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis.

 

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299

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