Decision Day In Minneapolis (Update 4:45pm CT – Carnegie Dates Cancelled)

Today marks the deadline for whether or not Osmo Vanska will continue as the Minnesota Orchestra Association’s (MOA) music director. Over the weekend, the musicians unanimously rejected the MOA’s latest offer, which retained the employer’s primary goal of reducing musician expenses by 25 percent; the only change in the recent incarnation was instead of instituting the cuts immediately, they would be reduced over a three year period.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-027Whether or not the slew of work rule related changes were modified is unknown; neither the MOA nor the musicians released any details on non-monetary items.

Musicians blasted the employer for releasing the monetary terms of the offer citing the board once again violated the mutually agreed upon media blackout as well as circumvented the mediator. In what might be best defined as a curious bit of rationale, MOA President & CEO Michael Henson countered the accusation by stating that the board decided to release the information because the “offer was generated by the community,” which was a reference to bridge funding secured to support the tiered reductions.

“We felt that it was important that as this offer was generated by the community that we actually make the community aware of this offer outside the mediation process,” Henson said. (source: Euan Kerr, 9/26/2013 edition of Minnesota Public Radio.)

It appears that needing to know some (but far from all) details in the latest offer does not translate into any sort of similarly limited shared bargaining authority between the community and the MOA board as the latter continues to exercise complete control over that process.

Musicians asserted that the bridge funding would be put to better use by directing it to a proposal presented by the mediator which would bring the musicians back for a four month period of play and talk with incrementally decreasing pay levels. If an agreement is not reached by the end of that time, both parties would resort to previous positions.

The MOA has neither addressed nor recognized that option as a viable solution in any of their public statements following news of the musicians’ rejection.

Update (10:05am CT): According to an evening revision, the 8/29/13 article by Graydon Royce in the Star Tribune reports that the musicians have presented the Mitchell compromise with a request for a private ballot vote by the full MOA board by 12:00 noon, 9/30/2013. A MOA board spokesperson replied that the Mitchell plan had already been rejected.

“We did not consider that to be a counterproposal,” [board negotiator Doug] Kelley said in a phone interview. “That was simply a request for us to revisit a decision that had already been made by the board of directors. The board of directors unanimously rejected that proposal on Aug. 12.”

Hurry Up And Wait

For now, all eyes are on Vanska and we’ll post an update to this article when and if any news becomes available so stop by later today for any revised information.

Update (4:45pm CT): MPR’s Euan Kerr reports that it looks as if the talks did not produce anything new and that the MOA has officially cancelled the Carnegie events. Given that this was one of Vanska’s key terms for remaining as music director, his continued tenure is very much in doubt. MOA Carnegie announcement is available here where Board Chair Jon Campbell accuses musicians of failing to bargain in good faith:

“It is clear that this was less a good-faith negotiating effort and more an attempt to blunt criticism over the musicians’ inability to come forth with a substantial solution to our financial challenges,” said Board Chair Jon Campbell.

Update (3:30pm CT): MPR’s Euan Kerr tweets that the meeting is underway and reports that the musicians have presented options and are awaiting a response from the MOA.

Update (2:40pm CT): It seems increasingly unlikely that there will be any announcement from Vanska today as both MOA and musicians appear to be attempting to schedule a face to face meeting later today. Graydon Royce reported the news about an hour ago at the Star Tribune and given the potential, it would be hasty for Vanska to make an announcement before allowing time to see if the talks materialize.

Nonetheless, if that doesn’t turn out to be the case, you can expect additional updates here.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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