Musicians unanimously reject Minn. Orchestra management's contract offer

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Saying a 25 percent cut in pay wouldn't keep them "a world-class, major-league destination orchestra," musicians with the Minnesota Orchestra Thursday voted down management's latest offer, the Star Tribune reports.

The announcement of the contract rejection was made by a group of musicians outside Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis.

Speaking on behalf of the orchestra, clarinetist and musician's negotiating team head Tim Zavadil said the vote against the contract proposal was unanimous, but didn't say how many musicians voted.

Management proposed a "play and talk" deal last week that would lift the lockout on Sept. 30 that offered the same amount of money to the players as they earned before they contract expired and the lockout began 11 months ago.

But the second part of the deal -- and the apparent deal killer for the musicians -- was that the "play and talk" period would last only two months, and if the dispute wasn't resolved by then, a 24-month contract would kick in and the musicians would be paid about 25 percent less of what they were making, or an average of $102,000.

The proposed cut was $23,000 more than the management offered before the lockout began last September.

The Star Tribune says the average total compensation of the 24-month contract, along with benefits, would average out at $135,000.

Twin Cities Business Magazine reports that orchestra president and CEO Michael Henson responded to the news in a email statement.

"We are disappointed that the musicians have rejected our compromise proposal, which would have allowed our season to begin on time for concertgoers," Henson said. "If the players are not willing to accept this proposal, we ask them to respectfully step forward with one of their own. In 17 months of negotiations, they have never issued their own counterproposal."

The musicians also said Thursday that they unanimously voted on a resolution to urge management to reconsider an offer put forth by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell in August. Mitchell has been acting as an informal mediator in the dispute.

The proposal won the favor of musicians but was rejected by the orchestra's board of directors. It called for a fourth month "play and talk" agreement that restored the musicians' pre-lockout pay amount for September and October, and instituted a six percent decrease in pay for November and December if the dispute wasn't settled.

Meanwhile, the future of music director Osmo Vänskä continues to hang in the balance. Vänskä has said in the past that he would resign if Carnegie Hall cancels two planned concerts in November featuring the orchestra.

The conductor said in a press release last week musicians must be back to work and in rehearsal the week of Sept. 30 in order to give them enough time to prepare for performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall on Nov. 2 and 3.

Management set the Sept. 15 deadline based on Vänskä's request.

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