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Minnesota Orchestra Musicians Approve New Contract, Ending Historic 15-Month Lockout!

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Jan 15, 2014 04:16 PM EST

Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra approved a new contract on Tuesday, ending the historic lockout that dragged on for more than 15 months. The 488-day impasse was the longest work stoppage ever in the history of U.S. orchestras.

"The musicians look forward to going home to Orchestra Hall after 488 days," said clarinetist Tim Zavadil, lead negotiator for the musicians, during a news conference Tuesday evening. "We're pleased there is a settlement, and we're looking forward to getting back on stage."

Minnesota's musicians will return to Orchestra Hall for the first rehearsal on February 1, and the orchestra plans to resume a concert schedule as soon as possible.

The agreement announced on Tuesday came about after back-channel talks over the past several weeks progressed to formal negotiations.

The orchestra board approved the terms of a new three-year contract that cuts salaries and benefits about 15 percent from 2012 levels. Minimum base salaries for musicians will drop to $96,824 in the first year, rising to $99,008 in year two and $102,284 in year three.

And under the new contract, musicians will pay a significantly greater portion of health insurance costs.

"The contract we signed today is a true compromise contract. No one got everything they wanted," said Doug Kelley, board negotiator, at a separate news conference. "The musicians told us it was extremely important for them to stay in the top 10 of orchestras in the country, and this contract allows them to do that."

The salary reductions represent a concession for the musicians, but are not as deep as the salary cuts of 30 to 40 percent that the orchestra's management originally asked for.

The orchestra will go on, but the question still remains: Who will conduct this newly reunited Minnesota Orchestra?

Osmo Vänskä, the orchestra's music director, resigned on October 1, 2013, after the lockout had dragged on for a year. Whether or not he will return remains unclear. Kelley said that the negotiators felt it was important to proceed one step at a time, "so we decided we'd get the contract settled and then take up that question."

Although both sides reached an agreement, it may be quite some time before any lingering resentments are resolved. "Look, you don't lock out people from their jobs for this long without there at least being some lingering feeling," said Minnesota musician Blois Olson. "The key point today is people get back together."

The news will no doubt delight the orchestra's many loyal supporters. "I think what we have learned throughout this process is there is a tremendous love for the organization as a whole in the community," Zavadil said. The community really cherishes the orchestra. And we have felt that."

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TagsMinnesota Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra lockout, Osmo Vänskä, Tim Zavadil, Doug Kelley, Blois Olson

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