MPR: Vanska to return as MN Orchestra director

ST. PAUL - Osmo Vanska will return to his old job as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, a source tells MPR News.

He's expected to receive a two-year contract. The orchestra will release more details later today.

The new deal finalizes what many people see as the most important issue remaining from the acrimonious labor dispute between management and musicians at the Minnesota Orchestra.

The run up to the 16-month lock out began after the MOA Board proposed a contract in April 2012, cutting salaries by 35 percent, and changing hundreds of work rules. Board negotiators argued it would make the orchestra more financially sustainable, and give it more flexibility to deal with the challenges of the highly competitive world of live music.

However the musicians disagreed, and after attempts at arbitration, the board locked the musicians out on October 1, a day after the old contract had expired.

That started a public relations war of nearly two years where musicians and passionate audience groups attacked the board for its lack of vision and heavy-handed concern with the bottom line.

The lock out presented hardships for the musicians, as they were not receiving salary or health benefits from the Orchestra. Several took leaves of absence to work elsewhere, and there was concern many would not come back.

The state Legislature even got involved after accusations that Minnesota Orchestra President Michael Henson had covered up concerns about the Orchestra's finances while asking for state bonding money to a renovation of Orchestra Hall and an expansion of the lobby. A report from the legislative auditor Jim Nobles later found no wrong-doing.

After many false starts, including an attempt at peace-making by Middle East mediator George Mitchell, the two sides finally reached a settlement in January 2014. The musicians said the deal would mean about a 10 percent cut in salaries over the three years of the contract, but with changes in other benefits such as health care they say they took a 15 percent hit.

The lock out officially ended Feb. 1 and the Orchestra returned to ecstatic audiences on Feb. 6.


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