MINNEAPOLIS - Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra said on Oct. 2 they have "our deepest regret" for "our loyal audience members," after management cancelled all concerts through Nov. 25, by locking out the unionized musicians.
The Orchestra locked out the musicians after failing to reach a contract agreement over the prior weekend. The musicians, members of the Twin Cities Musicians Union, unanimously rejected a management proposal that included 30%-50% pay cuts and over 200 changes to the existing contract.
The musicians also unanimously passed a motion urging orchestra management to "Play and Talk" while negotiations on a new agreement continued. But management turned down that offer, as well as another offer to enter into binding arbitration.
"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," the Orchestra said in a statement posted on its website. That makes Minnesota the latest orchestra - a prior one was in Philadelphia - to use financial difficulties to justify drastic cuts in performers' pay.
The Minnesota musicians question the management's interpretation of the orchestra's financial status.
"We renew our call for a joint, independent financial analysis of the (Orchestra) Association's finances," the musicians said. "We remain deeply concerned about discrepancies in management's financial reports and find it disturbing they would lock-out the musicians and cancel concerts rather than undergo transparent, independent analysis of the Association's finances. We ask, 'What more is (Orchestra President and CEO) Michael Henson hiding?'"
The musicians said that despite multiple requests, the orchestra management and board failed to provide a copy of the approved 2012-13 budget to the musicians.
They also did not provide any audited financial information to the musicians more recent than August 2011. Meanwhile, the Orchestra Association touted raising $97 million in the Building for the Future campaign, including $14 million in taxpayer funding for a $50 million lobby renovation.
The musicians also noted that even though it has cancelled concerts, the orchestra is not automatically refunding money to ticket holders, as it has done for other event cancellations.
Video: Keep World-Class Musicians in Orchestra Hall
Photo: The Minnesota Orchestra performing at a 4th of July celebration in Excelsior, MN. peterrieke CC BY 2.0