Written by Laurie Niles
Published: January 15, 2014 at 6:56 PM [UTC]
On Tuesday, musicians, represented by Twin Cities Musicians’ Union (American Federation of Musicians Local 30-73), and the Minnesota Orchestra Board of Directors ratified a three-year collective bargaining agreement that will cut musician salaries 15 percent from 2012 levels in the first year, according to the Minnesota Orchestra. This puts minimum base salaries at $96,824 for year one. Salaries will increase 2 percent to $99,008 for year two, then increase 3 percent to $102,284 in year three. This keeps Minnesota Orchestra in the top ten U.S. orchestras for salaries.
"Keeping salaries in the top ten was a critical issue, as it allows the orchestra to attract and retain the finest musicians in the country, building on the tradition of excellence that has been cultivated by the community over many generations. The agreement achieves this priority," said a statement from the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, posted yesterday.
Musicians had been locked out for 15 months after rejecting October 2012 proposal by management for 35 percent salary cuts. As the lockout dragged on, vacancies in the orchestra went unfilled and many of the orchestra's best musicians left for jobs elsewhere, leaving nearly 30 empty positions in the orchestra. The orchestra's conductor, Osmo Vänskä, resigned on Oct. 1 after having to cancel two Minnesota Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall.
Though Minnesota Orchestra Association Chief Executive Officer Michael Hensen has been widely criticized for his strategy in locking out the musicians and also for the massive bonuses he awarded himself in the run-up to the work stoppage, he will remain on as CEO, according to an article in MinnPost.com. Chairman of the Board Jon Campbell will step down.
The vote to ratify the contract was not unanimous, according to another MinnPost article. The same article speculates that perhaps the Minnesota Orchestra Association was feeling some pressure, facing the possible termination of its lease with the city of Minneapolis.
I think we all wish the Minnesota Orchestra well in the task of rebuilding its orchestra -- a considerable endeavor. The orchestra will need to convince musicians who endured more than a year of great financial hardship to come back to the orchestra that brought it upon them, or recruit new musicians into an orchestra with a reputation for disregarding its musicians. It will have to find a conductor. It will have to regain the trust of symphony donors. It will have to regain the trust of supporters and concertgoers who saw so many concerts canceled. It will have to rebuild its national and international reputation. It will have to shore up its board of directors.
Judging from the current state of the organization, the lockout-as-businessategy was disastrous. But at least it's over.
One person who can be thanked for her tireless advocacy on behalf of the Minnesota Orchestra is Emily Hogstad, whose blog, Song of the Lark, helped build the groundswell of support for the symphony's musicians and for its continuation as a top-quality musical organization. At least one musician involved in the negotiations told me privately that her blog was "so accurate, it's scary."
What was her assessment, at the end of the day?
"We saved the Minnesota Orchestra and we saved it together," Emily wrote. "Because of our work, the Minnesota Orchestra will not die. However, the new business model did. We killed it, and we killed it together."
Let's hope. And let's shoot high, let's hope this orchestra redeems itself by building a new business model: a strong organization that is a beacon of leadership, artistic excellence, fiscal responsibility and community strength.
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