About the Negotiations
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.
Have musicians offered concessions in response to the Orchestra's financial challenges?
Our board has gone to our musicians twice in the last three years to ask for modifications. In 2009, the players accepted a one year wage freeze and a delay in filling open positions in the Orchestra. (The musicians still received a 19.2 percent increase over the five years of the contract.)
In 2010, the board asked for further modifications in light of the economy. The union proposed a two year wage freeze and a two year extension to the contract with the provision that all increases would be reinstated during the extension.
The board declined this proposal since it would have resulted in pushing the problem out for an additional two years, which in turn would have incurred more deficits and further depleted the endowment.
What is being negotiated?
The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra belong to Twin Cities Musicians' Union (Local 30-73) and the national union, the American Federation of Musicians. Minnesota Orchestra musicians and their union representatives are meeting with members of the Minnesota Orchestra’s volunteer board of directors and professional management and administration team to negotiate the terms of a new agreement. The terms of this contract—called the Master Agreement—include salary, benefits, overtime pay and work rules, among other items. The current Master Agreement, which covers 2007-2012, expired October 1, 2012.
Why does the proposal include Union work rule changes?
One of our primary objectives in these negotiations is to have more flexible Union work rules that will allow the organization to better serve audiences. For example, we'd like to be able to schedule concerts on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day—occasions when our audiences enjoy hearing music. We'd like to take advantage of more opportunities to participate in community outreach.
Under the proposed changes, the working conditions for Minnesota Orchestra musicians remain respectful and fair, allowing for:
- 21 hours of work (either rehearsal or performance) per week—in order to allow appropriate time for musicians to rehearse on their own
- no more than 5 hours of work per day—for a typical work week
- opportunity to gain tenure
- 26 weeks per year of paid sick leave
- One year leaves of absence without pay with a guaranteed job upon return
Have contracts expired for MOA conductors and administrative staff too?
No, our staff conductors and management and administrative team are all governed by separate agreements, and they will continue their work on behalf of the Orchestra: fundraising for the organization, marketing future concerts, planning educational and artistic activities, and assisting our ticket holders.
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.
What will happen if the Orchestra's contract proposal fails to gain approval from the musicians?
The Orchestra is committed to keeping prices as reasonable as possible for concert-goers—whose average income is below that of its musicians. If we were to try to balance our budget through ticket sales and donation increases, every ticket sold and every donation given would need to increase by 60 percent.
Will the proposal substantially alter the Orchestra season?
No, our season will still feature a full classical subscription season with concerts from September through June and additional summer concerts in July for our audiences. It will also offer us additional opportunities for educational work, community outreach and chamber music performances in our community.
Why does the proposal require community and school outreach?
Conservatories and orchestras across the country are redefining what it means to be a great musician. It's not just flawless performances of the classics; today's great orchestras must connect with their communities. Everyone who appreciates classical music can be a classical music evangelist—and Minnesota Orchestra musicians can be our best advocates. Our current contract limits the amount of outreach the Orchestra can do in the community because we must pay musicians approximately $100 per hour (on top of their regular salaries) to go into schools, to talk with students and engage in outreach.
Is it possible to reduce the musicians’ benefit package to increase base salary, since salary seems to be most important to musicians? Or to reduce the size of the orchestra to increase salary?
Yes — these are the types of discussions that would take place in a traditional bargaining session in order to reach an agreement. To date, our musicians have not been willing to engage in this kind of negotiating, but these ideas all remain a possibility.