The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has made a new offer to its musicians and set a new deadline.
In contract talks that finished today, the SPCO put forth a new proposal that is basically the same as the previous one, but extends its duration from three to four years. It also includes a one-time payment of $2,000 per musician in the fourth year.
The proposal gives musicians until Tuesday to respond. The musicians say they need more information on the new proposal before they can respond in any time frame. They have also told the orchestra they would not be available to meet again for further negotiations until Nov. 3.
In a prepared statement, SPCO Interim President Dobson West said the orchestra cannot afford to pay musicians under the old contract, which it's been doing since the end of last month.
West's statement read, "It should come as no surprise that we are frustrated by the lack of progress in these negotiations. The Union and the Society agree that the SPCO faces a significant financial challenge, but the Union continues to reject that a significant reduction in the cost of the contract must be part of the solution. The Union has yet to provide us with a proposal that materially reduces the cost of the contract, and instead continues to insist that our audience and donors shoulder the burden. Meanwhile, each day that we continue to operate under the expired contract, we add to our deficit. We have been willing to "play and talk" because we want to keep the music going, but we cannot continue to operate this way for much longer."
The musicians also released their own statement, reading, "After the latest round of negotiations.... We're frustrated by the fact that management will not budge even an inch on their short-sided proposal that will destroy the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra as we know it. Our latest offer includes a 10 percent reduction in compensation that saves management nearly a million dollars over the next three years. Management wants everyone to believe they are offering musicians an additional year on a new contract and at a higher salary. But the truth is — the compensation in that final year is still 30 percent less than what were currently making and the health care costs would offset any increase in salary.
"We will continue to play and talk and work hard to reach a resolution... but it has become clear that management is disingenuous when they say they want to preserve the quality of our world class orchestra."