St. Paul Chamber Orchestra makes final offer, says lockout would start Sunday

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s board of directors says it has made a final offer to its musicians’ union, which, if not accepted by Sunday, will lead to a lockout in their contract dispute.

There’s already a lockout at the Minnesota Orchestra, which has canceled its performances at least through Nov. 25.

In St. Paul, management and the union had continued work under an expired contract in what they called “talk and play.”

But that time is over, says Dobson West, president and chair, SPCO Board of Directors, in an email this morning to board members and musicians:

“It would be an abdication of our fiduciary responsibility to continue in this manner any longer. Over the last four years, we’ve eliminated $1.5 million in annual expenses from our budget, and yet our deficit last year was nearly $1 million dollars. If we continue with the current contract, this year’s deficit will exceed that number. Repeated deficits of this magnitude will threaten the very existence of the SPCO.

“Therefore, today we delivered a “voting offer” to the Musicians’ Union and notified them that if it is not accepted before this Sunday, October 21, at 6:00 p.m., we will be forced to begin a lock out and cancel concerts through November 4.”

Terms of the new proposal, he said, are:

  • Current Musicians would be guaranteed annual minimum compensation of $62,500, which is 15% less than their minimum annual salary last year. This would cover 32 weeks of performances, allowing us to continue to provide the same number of concerts in the community as we do today. New Musicians would receive annual minimum compensation of $50,000. These salaries are only minimums:  we would also be able to individually negotiate additional compensation, allowing us the flexibility needed to continue to attract and retain the finest musicians.
  • All Musicians would continue to receive a full benefits package, including annual pension contributions of 7.63% to 10.9% of compensation.
  • In recognition of the significant contributions made by our many long-time Musicians and the major changes we are proposing, our proposal includes a generous retirement package of up to $200,000 for those Musicians over the age of 55 who want to retire.
  • Our proposal includes a reduction in the size of the Orchestra, preferably accomplished through voluntary retirements and attrition. However, if position eliminations are necessary, we are proposing a special severance package of $100,000.

On its website, the musicians union said: “Without a shared vision, understanding, and passion for the SPCO, the Musicians fear that the orchestra’s very existence will be severely  threatened.  A fracturing of the organization will impoverish the entire Twin Cities arts scene.”

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