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Orch. Management, Musicians Circle Around New Deal

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- There's a new deal in the works that would bring the Minnesota Orchestra musicians back, ending a nearly year- long lockout.

The two sides have been waging a bitter labor dispute that is centered on deep salary cuts. The Minnesota Orchestra's management says the concessions are needed to curb a huge operating deficit.

According to Doug Kelley, an attorney and former orchestra board member, the orchestra is losing $500,000 every month – or $6 million a year.

Musicians say they won't negotiate a new labor contract until the lockout is lifted. They have been out of work since Oct. 1, 2012, when they rejected the initial offer calling for 32 percent in salary cuts.

The latest offer from management comes outside the efforts of a special mediator and terms of the deal were made public.

Ever since the music stopped and the lockout began, there's been no progress between management and musicians.

Now, 11 months later, the management is hopeful their latest offer will melt the ice.

"We would hope that they would think about that and that they would take it," Kelley said. "That would be a way for us to alleviate all these events -- important events -- which are coming up."

Facing the multi-million dollar deficits the Minnesota Orchestra's management continues to seek concessions from its 85 musicians, but not quite as severe.

The proposed offer brings the musicians back to work for two months at their previous full salaries, allowing negotiations to continue.

Then, if there's no agreement reached by Nov. 1, the musicians would have to take 25-percent wage cuts over the next two years of the contract.

To soften the blow, musicians would share in 33-percent of net revenues if the annual budget is met.

Currently, the orchestra is tapping into its operating endowment to help pay its bills.

"And if we make the draws that are necessary to balance the budget, the endowment will be gone in five years," Kelley said.

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell has been mediating the dispute that's seen musicians take to the streets. Management rejected his recent plan to bring them back through December, as too costly.

That plan would have musicians return for two months at full salary. If no deal was reached, they would continue on the job until the end of the year but take a six-percent cut. By Dec. 31, if no deal was reached, the lockout would return.

Now, the union turned a cold shoulder to management's latest offer.

Blois Olson, spokesperson for musicians, said that had management accepted Mitchell's deal the musicians would have been back, "the concert season would have started and Osmo Vanska's tenure here would not be in question."

The Orchestra board is asking the musicians for a vote on their proposal by Sept. 9.

If accepted, it would allow for a full season and preserve Vanska's leadership of the orchestra, including a series of upcoming performances at Carnegie Hall.


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