MnOrch Musicians reveal counterproposal; management critical of request for higher pay

The locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra issued a cryptic release today. Here it is:

Minneapolis – The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra today confirmed with the Board-chosen mediator within Governor Mark Dayton’s process, their financially specific proposals.  

If accepted by management it would prevent the resignation of Osmo Vänskä, the Carnegie concerts and preserve the opening of Orchestra Hall.

Due to the confidentiality agreement that both parties signed, the Musicians will not release details of the proposal.  Musicians call on management to accept our proposal and honor the mediator’s agreement.

 So what does it mean? Basically the musicians are trying to take the steam out of management protests that musicians have not put forward a counterproposal to the contract orchestra officials offered in April, 2012. The musicians in July submitted a financial counterproposal to former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, called in to mediate the dispute. With today’s message, the musicians announced that Mitchell had confirmed the delivery of that counterproposal.

“Management has continued to mislead the public suggesting that there have been no counterproposals,” musician representative Blois Olson said. “Today we confirmed with the mediator, and through the mediation process, which is confidential, the musicians indeed have submitted a counterproposal.”

“Our goal is that management would either accept this offer or the mediators proposal and that the musicians would come back to work as soon as possible,” he continued.

When contacted by MPR about the musicians statement Minnesota Orchestra and CEO Michael Henson issued this statement.

“The Union has issued a vague framework for a proposal that calls for wage increases over three years.  The musicians have never acknowledged the financial challenges that the Orchestra faces, and this suggestion would increase the Orchestra’s annual $6 million deficit rather than do anything to help alleviate it.   

After seventeen months of negotiations where the Board has been very transparent about the seriousness of our financial challenges, it is extraordinary for the Union to come forward with a request for increases at this stage.  We reiterate our willingness to meet at any point this week to discuss solutions and negotiate a contract resolution.”

A second clarifying statement from Henson followed later.

“Our legal advisors say that the Union has offered nothing that would constitute an official counterproposal.  They have suggested vague terms around one element of the contract (seeking salary increases) but have not responded in any way with regard to proposed work rule alterations, insurance premiums, individual contracts, additional pay practices or benefits.   If the players truly want to negotiate or mediate, they should join us at the bargaining table. We’d be happy to meet them there.”

In response, the musicians’  representative Olson said, “We are disappointed management has once again violated the Mitchell agreement.” He said the public has seen the board has not been transparent, and he says the musicians have also said they are ready to meet too.

All of this is playing out against a series of deadlines leading up to the threatened departure of Music Director Osmo Vanska., who said he would be forced to resign if Carnegie Hall cancels concerts scheduled for Nov. 2-3. Vanska has said for the Orchestra to be adequately prepared he needs to be rehearsing with musicians by the week of Sept. 30.

Management says for that to happen there needs to be a deal in place by Sept. 15. That is next Sunday, which is also the date for a concert by the locked out musicians at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis.







  • emilySOTL

    Why won’t the management agree to a joint analysis that both musicians and public have asked for, which would include comparisons with other major American orchestras? Their recent report from AKA Strategies had no detailed comparisons with other American orchestras. Why not? It makes me feel like the management is hiding something. But what? The Minnesota Orchestra has the sixth largest endowment in the United States (or fourth, depending on how you measure it). We’re up to par with bigwigs like New York and Los Angeles. How are other orchestras making it work? No other orchestra with this size of endowment is making these kinds of cuts. The management may well have a compelling case for cuts of this extraordinary magnitude, but they sure haven’t made it yet. As Michael Henson would say, it’s all very puzzling!

    • eric2001

      yes, it is actually very puzzling.

    • Cinda Yager

      Remember, Emily, when the Board and management accused the musicians of using “typical union stalling tactics” a year ago? I do not believe that the Board and management ever stopped using their typical management stalling tactics.

  • Performing Artist52

    Why has Mr. Henson once again not respected the process of keeping
    specific information on potential proposal’s out of the media? He is
    trying to create turmoil with incomplete and erroneous information
    leaked to the public. Yes, there are financial problems and I am sure
    the musicians would be willing to help with the solution. But a drastic
    pay cut for the musicians is not the ONLY solution. For starters, Mr.
    Henson and the top management should be taking the same pay cut they are
    asking of the musicians.

    • Cinda Yager

      I agree with you! Executive management needs to share in the sacrifice. It would go a few steps toward re-establishing trust, especially if it’s substantial cut.

  • Sarah

    Management did not accept the proposal agreed-upon by both the musicians – who made significant concessions – and Sen. Mitchell. But now they want to “negotiate” at the “bargaining table” – have they decided to totally ignore mediation, break confidentiality, and continue to “negotiate” in public? And then they wonder why no one trusts them.

  • MaryAnn Goldstein

    Wow what a surprise (NOT!) that 1) the MOA would disregard the confidentiality agreement (or any agreement for that matter) re: the mediation process and 2) reject anything from the musicians that isn’t essentially the same as their “final offer” of last year. Perhaps the Musicians offered other concessions related to finances (that aren’t wages, such as benefits) that Mr. Henson has conveniently left out—or proposed a much lower wage that goes up gradually over 3 years (but would allow the organization to recover). Who knows? Anyway, one always has to parse Mr. Henson’s words since the truth often is found in what he doesn’t say. Does anyone remember this oldie but goodie—“On the financial front, we have announced balanced
    budgets over the last three consecutive years, and we are facing the
    current economic downturn with stability” which he said in front of the state legislature in
    January 2010, when he was seeking $14 million in state bonding for the
    renovation of Orchestra Hall? In any event, that’s the problem with negotiation/mediation. It doesn’t work when one side seems shady, immutable, untrustworthy, and unable to play by the rules—just as the MOA appears to be and as the public has clearly figured out.

    • Cinda Yager

      I agree, MaryAnn. They are doing nothing to show they are trustworthy and truly willing to resolve the conflict. One wonders exactly where their heads are…I won’t say what I was just thinking. But I’d guess that it won’t matter that there’s a mediator, won’t matter what the musicians propose, because MOA management won’t accept anything that they haven’t offered.

  • akadams

    Who’s advising Michael Henson to use the phrase “annual $6 million deficit”? How does he arrive at this figure? Is that number part of the MOA’s strategic plan? (Remember, the strategic plan “summary” which turned out to be the real plan all along?)
    Or is it in fact a projection, lain at the feet of the musicians?