Musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra today rejected a proposal from management to continue performing as they negotiate, commonly known as 'play and talk,' under the terms of management's latest contract offer.
SPCO management said it cannot afford to keep paying its musicians under terms of the old contract while negotiations continue. SPCO management's proposal to play and talk under the terms of the orchestra's latest offer would cut musician salaries by 15 percent.
"If we were to accept their proposal right now and play and talk under it, they would start to implement all of the things that they would like to happen under their proposal, and we don't agree with many of the things in their proposal," said trumpet player Lynn Erickson, with the musicians' negotiating committee.
Erickson said the musicians offered to play and talk under the old contract at a reduced base salary of $70,000 a year, but the SPCO management declined. The two sides will meet again Friday.
The SPCO musicians have been playing and talking under its old contract, which expired at the end of last month.
"We cannot afford to continue to play and talk under the current contract. It is just too expensive for us," said SPCO interim-President Dobson West. "And at some point, the union needs to acknowledge that we need to have substantial savings from the costs of the contract."
West said the orchestra would like to continue the 'play and talk' process, but needs to do it in a financially responsible way. Asked whether the SPCO was preparing to lock out its musicians, West responded that the orchestra couldn't keep the current 'play and talk' process going much longer.
The musicians say they're still digesting the terms of the orchestra's latest offer but say they are unhappy with most of it.