Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra formally rejected the latest contract offer from management and reaffirmed their support for a proposal that would end the lockout and begin a four-month “talk-and-play” period.
“We do not believe that a 25 percent cut in pay keeps the Minnesota Orchestra as a world-class, major-league destination orchestra,” said clarinetist Tim Zavadil, who heads the musicians’ negotiating team.
At a midday news conference outside Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis, the musicians said two votes were taken Thursday. Zavadil said the secret ballot on the management offer was unanimous, though he declined to say how many of the players voted.
Thursday’s announcement was the latest sign of how stark the divide remains between orchestra members and management after 11 months — and how both sides are taking the case more public as a key deadline looms.
In a second vote, musicians unanimously urged the board of directors to reconsider a proposal put forward by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. The board rejected that plan in August. “The musicians believe the best way forward is to listen to the only truly independent voice,” Zavadil said.
Orchestra President Michael Henson, expressing disappointment with the rejection, called on musicians to make a counterproposal.
“It is important to note that the mediator’s confidential proposal is not a contract proposal — it was only suggested as a means of getting musicians to come to the bargaining table,” Henson said in a statement.
Though he remains behind the scenes, Mitchell is attempting to mediate the contract dispute, which has become increasingly bitter in public, 11 months into a lockout imposed after musicians rejected the board’s first offer.
Calls continue to be made for elected officials to get involved. Orchestrate Excellence, a citizens’ group that recently held a large public forum on the dispute, released a letter asking Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Minnesota’s U.S. senators and Mitchell to “immediately negotiate an interim agreement that will end this crisis.”
Music director Osmo Vänskä said earlier this year that he will resign if Carnegie Hall cancels two November concerts featuring the orchestra. Vänskä told the board he would need the players back by Sept. 30 in order to prepare for the dates, and management said that would require a contract settlement by Sept. 15.