SPCO poised to lock out musicians

There is a very good chance that come Monday morning the two top orchestras of the region will be silenced.


Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians rallied Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, outside the Ordway Center in an attempt to forestall a feared lock out by the orchestra's management.

MPR Photo/Euan Kerr

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As MPR's Euan Kerr reports, management of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra today told its musicians that unless there is a contract agreement by 6 p.m. Sunday it will lock them out.

The deal now before the musicians is a four-year contract that sets a guaranteed minimum annual salary for current musicians at $62,500, and a base rate of $50,000 for new musicians. It cuts the size of the orchestra from 34 to 28 players and it offers buyouts to musicians aged 55 and older. West describes the cut as a 15 percent reduction.

"I understand that it is difficult for musicians to accept reductions in compensation. That's a normal occurrence. But we are where we are," [SPCO interim President Dobson] West said. "We need to reduce the cost of that contract and the musicians need to acknowledge that fact and then we will find a solution."

Musicians said they have been trying to be part of the solution and management has not been interested. A statement they released called the lockout deadline "dangerous and disingenuous." Lead negotiator for the musicians Carole Mason Smith said they have twice offered to take a pay cut so they can continue to play and talk.

"We have made proposals and they have completely ignored those proposals," Smith said.

Smith says management seems to be trying to put the musicians on the same level as other SPCO employees.

"We might be 40 percent of the budget, but we are 100 percent of the product" she said. "And their proposal does not in any way exhibit that."

If the SPCO carries out its threat, it will be the first time in history that both the musicians of SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra are locked out at the same time.

You can find the rest of the story here.