It has finally come to pass: the Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) and its musicians finally reached a deal to bring the nearly 16 month work stoppage to a close. Both stakeholders released press statements to announce the agreement; the musicians’ notice focused on retaining what was characterized as a base salary that kept the orchestra in the top 10 highest paid ensembles while the MOA’s statement included a bullet list of generalized agreement terms.
What’s critically important to keep in mind at this juncture is that neither side has released a full, unedited copy of the agreement so any claims or stated terms are, as of now, unverified. And given the dispute’s history of vociferous tactics, it is fair to say that any reliable analysis and/or review of current claims will have to wait until the agreement is released.
Nonetheless, that isn’t stopping either stakeholder from releasing their respective talking points.
- Top 10: the musicians appear to be transfixed on remaining in the Top 10 highest base musician salary levels among US orchestras. According to the musicians’ statement “it allows the orchestra to attract and retain the finest musicians in the country,” although there’s no mention about whether or not they meet that Top 10 standard when all of the related financial and benefit terms are factored into the overall compensation package.
- New board leadership: musician
spokespersons are quoted in various media sources saying they “look forward to working with new board leadership to rebuild our relationship and the trust within the organization.” At the same time, that doesn’t appear to apply to the executive leadership as the MOA has not announced that CEO Michael Henson will be leaving.
- Reduced savings: MOA board negotiator Doug Kelley told the Star Tribune that the agreement provides $3.5 million in savings in the first of the three year term but the MOA had originally sought $5 million in labor costs. Those are very loose comparisons and there’s no mention of the three year agreement’s cumulative concessions so it is simply unknown if the MOA managed to secure the overall monetary reductions they have pushed for since initiating the lockout.
- Reduced number of musicians: even though the MOA press release states both sides agree that 95 rostered musicians is the optimal ensemble size, the new three year agreement only requires 77 members. That figure will purportedly rise by seven over the term although there are no details as to when those are scheduled to roll out or if there is any language that allows the organization to delay filling the positions for financial reasons. Likewise, there are no details as of yet regarding which positions are permanently cut or the schedule for filling the impending seven openings.
In the end, the wisest course of action at this point is to take everything with a grain of salt. By all means, be happy that the lockout has come to an end, but wait patiently for the full details before forming conclusions and question everything. All things being equal, copies of the agreement could be available as early as next week and if nothing else, it will be interesting to see how anxious and amenable both sides are to get those documents out into the sunlight for inspection.