We regret to report that the Minnesota Orchestra and the Musicians' Union have not been able to agree on the terms of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. If you hold tickets to cancelled concerts, click here.
Our board and management have a responsibility to protect the Minnesota Orchestra for the long term and that means negotiating a contract that allows the organization to live within its financial means. We need an Orchestra that is both artistically and financially strong to benefit our audiences, supporters, community and musicians for years to come, and we will keep working with our musicians to arrive at an agreement that achieves this goal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are these negotiations important?
The Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians are engaged in contract negotiations at a critical moment in our organization's history. Like many of the country's symphony orchestras, we have financial challenges that have never been greater, and our musician expenses have never been higher. The Orchestra has managed a five-year contract with its musicians that included a pay increase of 19.2 percent to base salary, just as the organization's revenues were being hit hard by the economy. The organization has been doing everything it can to resolve its financial challenges, from engaging in a $110 million fundraising campaign, to cutting budgets, to launching new marketing and programming initiatives, and renovating Orchestra Hall to make it more inviting to audiences of all ages.
Musicians account for 48 percent of the Orchestra's total costs. (For background: nearly 80% of our total costs support concert-related expenses, and we have now enacted significant cost reductions in all other areas of our business except the musicians' contract.) Their average annual salary is $135,000, plus $35,000 worth of benefits, including a defined benefit pension plan and a comprehensive medical plan. They receive a minimum of 10 weeks paid vacation and up to 26 weeks of paid sick leave each year. Our musicians must play their part in the organization's financial recovery.
What were the terms of the most recent contract offer issued by the Board?
The Board’s fourth proposal, issued on September 26, in an attempt to reach agreement with musicians before Osmo Vänskä’s September 30 deadline offered the following:
- An average annual salary of $104,500
- A one-time signing bonus of $20,000, made possible by a coalition of Minnesota foundations
- Revenue sharing with musicians if the Orchestra exceeds budget goals
- A minimum of 10 weeks paid vacation
- A comprehensive benefits package worth $33,000 per musician
- President and CEO Michael Henson volunteered to reduce his salary package by the same reductions musicians would receive
The musicians rejected the proposal on Saturday, September 28.
How many musicians have left as a result of the lockout?
Since the lockout began in October, eight musicians have submitted requests for a year's leave of absence to pursue other opportunities, and two have resigned without first taking a leave of absence. (The musicians' contract allows them the chance to try out a new job while their position here is held open for one year, before they determine whether to resign from the Orchestra.)
On average, approximately three musicians leave the Orchestra each season to accept other positions.
What are the results of the independent financial audit?
Will Board members gain in any way if musicians make concessions?
Our Board is made up of community leaders, all of whom are volunteers. They do not financially benefit from their work with the Minnesota Orchestra. To the contrary, they—and the corporations many of them represent—make very generous donations to the Orchestra.
Over the last five years, Board members have donated $46.76 million to the Minnesota Orchestra. Their "gain" comes from serving the community and ensuring the long-term artistic and financial health of the Orchestra.
Will management and administration also reduce its compensation?
Yes, it already has. The Orchestral Association has managed its management/administrative staffing costs efficiently over a long time. In all, total costs in the organization—excluding musicians—have decreased by 6 percent since 2002.
Since the start of the 2007 musician's contract, the Minnesota Orchestra administrative team has taken a salary reduction, a wage freeze and had their pension contributions from the Association reduced by more than 40 percent. The average full-time staff salary was $53,000 in fiscal year 2008 and increased to $54,000 by fiscal 2012. (In that same time period, the average musician salary increased from $113,000 to $135,000.) The average staff member earns three weeks of vacation a year. On the Orchestra's 12-member management team, only two leaders currently earn more than the musician's current base salary.
Additionally, President and CEO Michael Henson has volunteered to reduce his salary package by the same reduction musicians take. The size of the administrative staff has decreased by 20 percent since 2009 due to layoffs—and the MOA contributes 24 percent less to administrative staff medical coverage than it contributes to the musicians' medical coverage.
Why not seek a short term “pay and play” agreement to “rebuild trust” as musicians have suggested?
A short-term band-aid is not a viable solution at this point in our negotiations because the trust that musicians, management and board need to focus on most is that of our subscribers, ticket-buyers and donors.
As an organization, we need to be able to present a long-term resolution and a whole concert season so that we can realistically embark on the sales and fundraising initiatives that will be required to make any contract feasible. A temporary solution will not allow us to accomplish this.
What will happen to the 2013–14 season?
Our 2013–14 season is fully planned — with a strong line-up of guest artists, repertoire and educational outreach. We have subscription packages prepared and subscriber seats on hold in the renovated Orchestra Hall. However, out of respect for our patrons who withstood an entire season of cancelled concerts, we do not intend to ask for any ticketing commitments until we can guarantee that the concerts will be performed. As soon as we can offer this assurance, we will immediately announce all season plans.
Why raise $50 million for the renovation of Orchestra Hall when the Orchestra faces large deficits?
A renovated Orchestra Hall is part of the solution to the Orchestra's financial issues. It offers an opportunity to attract new audiences, to reposition the Orchestra's role in our community, to resize seating in the auditorium to match demand and to increase incremental revenue within the Hall. The donors who have generously contributed to the Orchestra's capital building project have done so because they want to support the renovation of Orchestra Hall—understanding how critically important it is to the Minnesota Orchestra's future. To date, $47 million dollars has been raised towards our $50 million goal—a sign of our community's support of this project.
What's more, our annual fundraising—which runs concurrently with the capital campaign—is on pace, thanks to donors who understand the importance of supporting our ongoing work.
How have other orchestras addressed their deficits?
The recession severely impacted the orchestral industry, as it did most nonprofits that rely on charitable donations and investment returns. Musicians in many other major orchestras across the nation have helped their Boards to address these issues by making significant contract concessions. These include the major orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Other orchestras, such as Cleveland, have not sought wage concessions but have announced major structural deficits. Every community must find its own solution to the challenges that its orchestra faces, based on what its community can afford.
Is the Orchestral Association planning to employ a new orchestra?
Our commitment is to negotiate with and reach a settlement with our current musicians so that we can start the concert season as soon as possible.