The musicians have been playing without a contract since August 2003, and they have skipped rehearsals and worn red union t-shirts to concerts in protest of management's position. The opera company had sought assurances that the musicians would not wear the t-shirts at its September performances of Bellini's Norma, according to MSO management. The musicians would not provide such assurances.
The two sides began talks in January 2004, but management withdrew in May after concluding that they were too far apart. At the request of a mediator, they returned to the table in October but have been unable to reach an agreement, with musicians turning down two management proposals. Management, facing an accumulated deficit of about C$3 million, has sought to change work rules to reduce costs.
In a statement released Friday, management urged that "an intensive session of negotiations [begin] as soon as possible."