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.