Minnesota Orchestra lockout ends; new contract ratified
By Ross Raihala
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS -- After a bitter lockout that lasted more than 15 months, the Minnesota Orchestra’s management and musicians agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement Tuesday. It will put the musicians back to work, with performances set to resume at Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall in early February.
“I’m delighted we’ve reached a settlement and delighted music will return to the Minnesota Orchestra stage,” CEO Michael Henson said late Tuesday. “We have to come together, work together and look toward the future with optimism.”
The musicians echoed that sentiment.
“(We) are pleased that we have come to a solution with our board, and we are ready to work with them to begin the hard work that lies ahead,” said negotiator and clarinetist Tim Zavadil. “We are anxious to start performing for our community at home in Orchestra Hall once again.”
The new three-year contract will cut salaries by about 15 percent, with a minimum base salary set at $96,824 and small increases scheduled the following two years. Musicians will pay a greater portion of health insurance costs. Also, the orchestra’s size will increase from its current 77 members to 84 over three years.
Other contract terms include:
-- Revenue sharing for the musicians, based on the performance of the orchestra’s endowments.
-- Changes in work rules meant to provide more flexibility to offer more outreach performances and increased concert lengths as needed.
-- Changes in the way overtime is calculated.
-- An agreement to focus on classical music with a guaranteed minimum of 20 weeks of classic performances each year.
-- Quarterly meetings between management and musicians to “build trust and foster open communication.”
“Our success now depends on our ability to move forward with positive spirit as one organization, and we are very pleased to begin this work with the musicians and to engage our audiences with music again,” said board member Richard Davis.
Negotiations began back in April 2012 but fell apart after musicians refused to accept pay cuts of up to 40 percent. Management locked out the musicians Oct. 1, 2012, after both sides failed to agree on new contract terms. The entire 2012-13 seasons was canceled, while a $50 million Orchestra Hall renovation went on as planned.
In December, 10 DFL legislators — including Sens. John Marty and Patricia Torres Ray and Reps. Alice Hausman and Phyllis Kahn — called for an end to the lockout and the resignations of Henson, Davis and board chair Jon Campbell. In a letter, they accused management of manipulating “financial results in a deliberate deception of the public, first to gain public funding for Orchestra Hall, and then to justify locking out the musicians for well over a year.”
The lockout also cost the orchestra its acclaimed leader, Osmo Vanska, who oversaw the musicians through high-profile tours and two Grammy nominations. Vanska threatened to resign if the musicians were not back to work in time for November concerts booked at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Despite entering mediation under former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who worked to broker accords in the Middle East and Northern Ireland, the warring sides did not come to a new agreement. Vanska followed through and announced his departure from the orchestra on the one-year anniversary of the lockout.
Henson did not comment on whether Vanska will return, but said guest conductors will fill in for upcoming performances, which will be announced soon.
During the lockout, the Minnesota Orchestra’s musicians continued to perform, producing more than 20 independent concerts and raising more than $650,000.
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra had its own labor dispute, with management locking out its musicians in November 2012. But the sides were able to come to an agreement in April and finished out the season.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.