Reporting Esme Murphy
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP/WCCO) — As the lockout of musicians at the Minnesota Orchestra nears a year, Gov. Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said Thursday it’s time for the sides to bury grudges and resume face-to-face talks.
The lockout has already caused the cancellation of one season and if it isn’t resolved soon the orchestra may lose its renowned conductor, Osmo Vanska. He has threatened to resign in 11 days if Carnegie Hall performances in November are scrapped because of the impasse.
The appeal comes as workers get ready for Friday night’s Symphony Ball — the orchestra’s biggest fundraiser — which is set to raise $1 million. Musicians said they will be protesting outside the event.
The two Democrats called a news conference to voice frustration about the long-running dispute. In Rybak’s words, “the future of the Minnesota Orchestra is at stake.” Dayton and Rybak stressed they aren’t taking sides.
“Somehow this institution has to become more important to the parties involved than even their own very legitimate self-interests,” Dayton said. “I make this appeal and strongly urge that representatives of the board, representatives of the musicians meet with the mediator as soon as possible and continue that face-to-face meeting as long as it takes to get an agreement.”
The sides have been working through an independent mediator — former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell — in recent days but that hasn’t produced any discernible breakthrough. The lockout that started last October stemmed from management’s proposal to trim musician salaries.
Blois Olson, a spokesman for the musicians, said the parties are still a long way apart. “We will look for a way forward but there are still serious questions about the executive leadership of this organization,” he said.
In a statement, the orchestra board said “immediate and intense negotiations” are needed to forge a settlement and that its negotiating committee is ready to meet once the musicians are.
In the last public offer to musicians, which was rejected, included a 24 percent pay cut. That resulted in an average salary of $102,000, 10 weeks of paid vacation and up to 26 weeks of paid sick leave.
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