About the Negotiations
What does the contract expiration mean for Minnesota Orchestra musicians?
With no contract in place, the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra will not be asked to rehearse or perform concerts. They will not receive salary or benefits until the terms of a new contract are established.
Why not continue to "pay and play" to try to come to an agreement?
From April through September, that is precisely what we did. The Orchestral Association put forward our proposal on the first day of negotiations on April 12, 2012 and to date, we still have not received a contract proposal from our musicians. At this point, "pay and play" activity would result in our organization incurring operating losses of at least $500,000 a month. We cannot continue on this path: we need our players to participate and come forward with a realistic counterproposal.
How long do you think this will last?
We don't know, but we are committed to working with the musicians on an agreement that allows the organization to live within its means and protect the Minnesota Orchestra for the long term. We believe the Minnesota Orchestra can be artistically great and financially stable—and we need to achieve this balance to benefit our audiences, supporters, community and musicians for years to come.
What is the Orchestra doing to try to get its musicians to submit a counterproposal?
The board has listened carefully to the reasons the musicians have publicly articulated for not submitting a counterproposal. Since January, the board has done everything it can to remove the barriers musicians have said stand in the way of them issuing a counterproposal. These include:
- Sharing all fiscal information musicians have asked for, including 2012-15 financial forecasts;
- Pursuing an independent financial review designed to verify the organization’s financial position;
- Returning, with slight modifications, to the former mission statement which is preferred by musicians;
- Pursuing a fundraising feasibility study to determine if additional funding exists in the community to support musician salaries;
- Inviting musicians to meet with the full Board of Directors;
- Offering additional meeting dates
Is it true that the musicians are refusing to issue a counterproposal because they are concerned management could declare an "impasse" and legally impose its original offer—or management could force the musicians into a strike?
We cannot explain why the musicians have chosen not to issue a counterproposal. To say that one party can't make an offer in a negotiation runs contrary to the very notion of collective bargaining. The collective bargaining system is based on back and forth negotiations with each side expected to put forward good faith proposals and to "bargain" until a settlement is reached. This is what has happened in all previous negotiations in the Minnesota Orchestra's history—and in every other orchestral negotiation across the country, even in those situations where managers have sought concessions.
Additionally, whether an "impasse" has been reached is a legal determination involving many factors, and managers cannot force musicians to strike. Musicians themselves would need to vote to authorize a strike.
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, 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.
Why did the Board not agree to a final and binding arbitration process?
It is highly unusual to turn to arbitration to settle a contract dispute when one party has yet to engage in negotiations by submitting a proposal.
Further, the Union's suggestion of final and binding arbitration gave our organization no assurance that the Orchestra's financial instability would be solved even in the short term. At best, it would delay the needed changes for many months while the arbitration unfolds, during which time the Orchestra would incur significant operating losses. The Board cannot turn responsibility for the Orchestra's future over to a single arbitrator, who will bear no responsibility for the decision once it is made.
We are strongly supportive of having an independent party involved in our negotiations, however, and our most recent sessions have all taken place with a federal mediator present.
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.
What are the terms of the Minnesota Orchestra’s proposed contract with musicians?
Under the new contract proposal, the musicians would receive an average annual salary of $89,000 (including overscale and other additional payments) with a minimum of 10 weeks paid vacation per year, a comprehensive medical plan and a defined benefit pension plan. Musicians can leverage the reputation of the Minnesota Orchestra brand and supplement their incomes by teaching and playing in music festivals during the regular season and during their weeks of vacation. The Orchestra is supportive of this additional employment.
The proposal also requests that musicians play chamber music in community locations and participate in outreach events in our state's schools as part of their contract, which is good for our communities and good for the future of the Orchestra.
Does the proposal include overscale?
Overscale payments are additional weekly payments negotiated by and made to individual musicians on top of their base pay. Currently, 80 percent of our musicians receive overscale payments. These payments range from $520 to $79,243 per year. The average is $15,885.
Our proposal maintains overscale payments for all section leaders, principals and one-on-a-part players, establishing a fair and transparent rate for each position.
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 be able to schedule concerts up to 2 1/2 hours in length to allow for more programming flexibility and longer intermissions for audiences. 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 music director, 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.
Will pay cuts cause the best talent to leave the Orchestra?
Salary is one factor that helps people to determine whether they want to remain in a job. There are many other factors as well, especially in a mission-driven organization like the Minnesota Orchestra. This orchestra has many great advantages for musicians. The Twin Cities are a terrific place to live, with a cost of living lower than in many other cities where top orchestras are located. And the Minnesota Orchestra has a great artistic profile because our board, music director and management are committed to ensuring that our organization continues to tour, make recordings and engage in artistically significant projects. This positively impacts the daily lives of Minnesota Orchestra musicians.
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.