In response to your many letters and comments, we have updated our FAQs and will be featuring new ones regularly.
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|Are the Musicians unwilling to face the reality of the fiscal challenges facing the Minnesota Orchestra?||As proud stewards of a legacy of musical excellence, no one has a greater stake in the financial viability of the Minnesota Orchestra than the orchestra's Musicians. We cannot propose a solution based on deceptive and incomplete numbers, or put blind faith in an untested business plan. Unfortunately, our proposal to co-commission a comprehensive, comparative 3rd party analysis of the MOA's past business practices and future business model was rejected.
Over the past several years the MOA misled the public about its fiscal position and employed a public relations firm to make decisions on which aspects of its finances to disclose and which to hide from public view. As revealed in minutes of the finance and executive committees obtained by the Star Tribune in a November 25th article:
"Balances in 2009 and 2010 would support our state bonding aspirations, while the deficits in 2011 and 2012 would demonstrate the need to reset the business model." - VP of Finance, Bryan Ebensteiner
These are not the actions of a trustworthy or transparent management team.
The Musicians are being asked to make a $25 Million ($60,000 per musician per year) investment by leaders who have betrayed our trust and the trust of the community. We are deeply concerned that the MOA is building its financial future on quicksand, having lost sight of issues of trust, leadership, vision, collaboration, and a commitment to the Minnesota Orchestra's fundamental purpose - issues crucial to the success of any business venture. Without trust or shared vision, the Musicians are unable to verify or accept the MOA's version of reality.
|What is the status of the Joint Independent Financial Analysis?||After initially characterizing a joint independent financial analysis as a frivolous delay tactic, in January management agreed to pursue it together with the Musicians. The two parties spent several months agreeing on the parameters of the study and mutually acceptable analysts.
In late April, management withdrew from this joint endeavor, stating that it would be too broad, encompassing not only last year's tax returns, but also the MOA's Strategic Plan for future operations—which has never actually been released in full,—past operational and fiscal decisions, and the viability of the management's proposed New Business Model.
These are vital areas of concern for the future of the Minnesota Orchestra and for our loyal audience and sustaining donors, and we are baffled by the MOA's objection to allowing independent experts to review their plans for the future.
The MOA has now unilaterally commissioned their own audit. At some point, the MOA will release the results of its extremely limited audit, which we fully expect will be virtually identical to the results of their previous extremely limited audits. We also expect that they will appropriate the term Independent Financial Analysis to describe their limited audit, in an effort to confuse the public into believing that the broad review we were seeking has been accomplished.
|Are all American orchestras taking large pay cuts?||No. Every peer American symphony orchestra in negotiations this past year (Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, DC) has recently settled contracts with freezes to modest increases. No other top tier symphony orchestra has insisted its musicians take a 30-50% cut in pay, along with drastic changes to their working conditions. Our management has isolated itself with this attempt, and its “final offer” is inherently destructive to the core identity of this orchestra and the international reputation it has built.
There is no example of an orchestra that has maintained its reputation and caliber following severe salary and budget cuts. Orchestras that go through prolonged work stoppages and draconian cuts to salary and benefits inevitably lose many of their best players to orchestras that value their Musicians.
|Why haven't the Musicians have put forth a counter-proposal in order to resume negotiations?||The Musicians have made 4 proposals. We are aware that in many labor negotiations a commonly used procedure is the offer/counteroffer, back-and-forth type where one side starts low, the other side starts high, and the two parties meet somewhere in the middle. We have been through many tough yet productive contract negotiations over the years using this method.
Early on, the musicians realized this would be an ineffective and counterproductive method, as we had not been given sufficient financial information about the past practices and future plans of the MOA to formulate a reasonable counter-proposal. Fortunately, there are other methods toward reaching a contract agreement which have been used in our industry. Management is aware of these methods as well.
To that end, in September 2012, the Musicians submitted three offers as paths toward a reasonable settlement:
● The Musicians offered to submit to impartial, final and binding arbitration under the guidance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which would submit the MOA's claimed financial position to outside review. The MOA rejected this offer.
● The Musicians offered to “play and talk” with a guarantee not to strike while continuing to negotiate, to allow the music to continue. The MOA rejected this offer.
● The Musicians proposed a joint, independent financial analysis to learn the MOA's true financial position. The MOA rejected this offer, citing delay, then later agreed to it in January 2013. In April 2013, the MOA pulled out of the joint analysis and decided to commission their own, more limited financial review, stating that they were unwilling to analyze and compare the viability of their past and future business practices and governance structure to the successful orchestras in our industry.
The Musicians made a fourth proposal prior to the February 1st Grammy Celebration Concert that included terms for the joint independent financial analysis, a new joint fundraising campaign to fund any financial challenges of the Orchestra, donation of all proceeds from the Feb. 1 concert to the endowment, and a return to the stage to maximize revenue to the Orchestra during the current season. The MOA rejected this offer.
Outside industry experts have repeatedly noted that formal counter-proposals are not necessary for negotiations to take place. (http://www.adaptistration.com/blog/2012/11/29/no-confidence-vs-full-confidence/) Requiring a formal counter-proposal as a basis for talks represent management's own self-imposed roadblock to the negotiation process; this has resulted in considerable delay in these negotiations.
In addition to salary and benefit cuts of 30-50%, the MOA’s contract proposal includes nearly 300 arbitrary changes to working conditions that were crafted by both sides over a period of forty years. Such terms place the Minnesota Orchestra, at the height of its artistic accomplishments, far outside the parameters of this country’s symphonic industry.
|Hasn't the Management also taken cuts?||Public records show recent increases in salaries for top management figures. When asked what cuts they have taken, management cites staff layoffs, yet not a single member of the management team has been laid off, nor have any of them been subjected to 30-50% pay cuts. While insisting on drastic cuts to the Musicians, management salaries remain competitive on a national level.|
|What is the difference between a lockout and a strike?||A LOCKOUT is a temporary denial of employment. It is a tool used by the management of a company during a labor dispute in order to force financial concessions and compliance from employees, in this case the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. This is different from a STRIKE, in which employees refuse to work in order to achieve gains in compensation and/or working conditions from an employer. A lockout is usually implemented by simply refusing to admit employees onto company premises and may include actions such as changing locks and hiring security guards for the premises.
In the case of the Minnesota Orchestral Association, a lockout was initiated on October 1st and included the cancellation of the first eight weeks of the 2012-2013 season of the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as the cancellation of all salary and benefits to the Musicians. Management has now extended concert cancellations through July 20th, effectively cancelling the entire 2012-2013 season, an unprecedented failure in our industry. Industry analysts have observed that regular cancellation announcements are a tool used by employers to pressure employees into accepting sharply concessionary contract terms.
According to the New York Times, lockouts are increasingly being used by employers to gain concessions from their employees. You may be interested to know that the Minnesota Orchestral Association has hired the same law firm responsible for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra lockout, as well as the American Crystal Sugar lockout mentioned in the article linked above.