Could Twin Cities Orchestras go silent?

5:05 PM, Sep 24, 2012   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Orchestra has refused to allow its musicians to address the organization's governing board Monday night as the two sides try to come to a new contract agreeement, according to sources with close ties to the players.

The two sides were in federal mediation all day Monday.

At issue in the dispute, is the pay scale of the 95 musicians in the Minneapolis-based Orchestra, which the Orchestra negotiators want to reduce by 30 to 50 percent for at least some of the players.
The average base pay for musicians would drop from $135,000 to under $90,000.

"Which does not take into account the instruments that musicians use in the Minnesota Orchestra to get the world-class sound that we have," said Tim Zavandil, Clarinet player and Chair of the Negotiating Committee for the players. "The instruments that we use can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Zavandil said that not only do musicians purchase and own their own instruments, but they pay for maintenance of the instruments.

"We are having a difficult time understanding a proposal of a 30 to 50 percent pay cut for musicians, while at the same time, building a $50 million lobby (at Orchestra Hall)," said Zavandil.

The musicians contend that the board was to determine Monday evening whether to lock out the players at the conclusion of their contract on Sept. 30. The musicians have called for an "independent, transparent" analysis of the Minnesota Orchestra.

There has been no confirmation from the Orchestra Board of its intentions.

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is also in a dispute with its players. The musicians' contract there also expires on Sept. 30.

"It is a quirk of fate that people who have been around here for a long time cannot remember ever actually happening before," said Dobson West, President of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

The Orchestra is proposing a 15 percent reduction in the musicians' base pay and a cut in the number of players.

"We are looking at reducing the complement of the Orchestra from 34 to about 28. There is no magic in the number 34," said West. "We believe we can be artistically great and also save some money to reduce the size of the complement."

The SPCO, in its history, has had as many as 35 players and as few as 20. Base salary for new players in the SPCO would average about $50,000, according to West, with individual contracts above that.

The SPCO and its musicians have scheduled more negotiating sessions for Saturday and Sunday. It is not known if the Federal mediation in the Minnesota Orchestra dispute will continue on Tuesday or later.

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