Mediator in Minnesota Orchestra dispute makes minor headway

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A proposed interim agreement by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell in the Minnesota Orchestra labor dispute appears to have won favor with locked-out musicians, but orchestra management has rejected the idea, the Star Tribune reports.

The proposal was reportedly sent to the musicians Wednesday in the form of a confidential letter.

The former Maine senator has been trying to mediate an agreement in the 11-month-long dispute, which resulted in the cancellation of the orchestra's entire 2013-2014 season and proposed shortened summer season.

In a letter to the musicians, Mitchell reportedly proposed a four-month interim agreement that would allow the musicians to return to work from September through December.

According to the Star Tribune, the short-term agreement would have allowed the players to receive salaries based on their expired contract for the first two months, and if a formal pact wasn't reached by the end of October, they would continue to play through December with a six percent pay cut.

If an agreement by the end of the four-month frame, the parties would return to their current positions.

The musicians rejected a similar proposal from management last month, where during a window of mediation they would return to work and for the first two months receive their old salaries. After that, however, a 25 percent cut in pay would go in effect.

When the Star Tribune reached out to orchestra chief executive Michael Henson, he wouldn't on the latest proposal, except to say, "I can confirm that we are in a confidential negotiating process."

Despite the rejection by management of the latest offer, both sides said the process with continue with Mitchell, the Star Tribune reports. Mitchell, in addition to being the former majority leader in the U.S. Senate, also acted as a diplomat to broker peace in Northern Ireland.

Next month will mark a crucial time for the orchestra. Conductor Osmo Vänskä said in May that he would leave his post Sept. 9 if the orchestra loses a prestigious Nov. 3 engagement at New York’s Carnegie Hall because of the lockout.

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