Minnesota Orchestra, locked-out musicians OK contract

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - January 14, 2014

The three-year agreement takes effect February 1, the two sides said in a joint statement. The orchestra's first performances back on the Orchestra Hall stage in downtown Minneapolis are expected in early February.

"This ratified agreement reflects that both the musicians and the board made concessions on issues of importance to them, which was necessary in order to bring the organization together again," said Richard Davis, chair of management's negotiating team. "Our success now depends on our ability to move forward with positive spirit as one organization, and we are very pleased to begin this work with the musicians and to engage our audiences with music again."

Clarinetist Tim Zavadil, a negotiator for the musicians, said the musicians are ready to work with the orchestra's board "to begin the hard work that lies ahead."

"We know that there is a great love for this Orchestra throughout the community, and we are confident that this community will, in fact, continue to support world-class music in the Twin Cities," Zavadil said in the statement.

The musicians were locked out on Oct. 1, 2012, after refusing to accept deep salary cuts. As the impasse dragged on, Vanska made good on his threat to quit if the lockout wasn't resolved in time to save scheduled performances at Carnegie Hall in November 2013. Vanska had led the Minnesota Orchestra for a decade.

The new agreement cuts musicians' salaries 15 percent from 2012 levels in the contract's first year. Minimum base salaries over the three years of the contract will rise from $96,000 in the first year to $99,000 in the second year and $102,000 in the final year.

The agreement also calls for adding seven musicians to the orchestra over three years, increasing the orchestra's size from its current 77 members to 84.

Under the agreement, the Minnesota Orchestra would continue to rank among the "Top 10" orchestras in the nation according to pay scale - a key priority for the musicians' union.

"Keeping our salaries in the top ten was a critical issue for us, as it allows us to attract and retain the finest musicians in the country, and continue building the tradition of excellence that has been cultivated by the community over the past 110 years," cellist and musician negotiator Marcia Peck said in the statement.

Orchestra board of directors Chair Jon Campbell agreed that keeping the ranking was important.

"Meeting the 'Top 10' metric means the organization will need to seek bridge funding to help address financial issues in future years. Now more than ever, we will need members of our community who voiced strong support for world-class orchestral music in our state to help us achieve long-term fiscal health through increased concert attendance," Campbell said.

The orchestra's board asked at its December annual meeting that Campbell continue to lead as chair until the dispute was resolved. With a new contract settled, the board will elect a new chair in the coming weeks.

Details of the orchestra's "homecoming concerts" and the 2014 subscription season will be announced soon.

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