ST. PAUL, Minn. - Musicians with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra have received an ultimatum from SPCO officials: Accept the latest contract offer, or be locked out.
The orchestra and its musicians have been operating under a "play and talk" agreement so union members could keep performing while negotiations on a new contract continued, but that is no longer the case.
SPCO President Dobson West sent a letter to musicians Wednesday saying they had until 6 p.m. Sunday to accept the latest offer or be locked out. All concerts through November 4 would be canceled.
Included in the current SPCO proposal forwarded by West:
- 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 the SPCO to continue to provide the same number of concerts in the community as today. New Musicians would receive annual minimum compensation of $50,000. These salaries are only minimums: the orchestra would also be able to individually negotiate additional compensation, allowing 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 long-time Musicians and the major changes we are proposing, the proposal includes a retirement package of up to $200,000 for those Musicians over the age of 55 who want to retire.
- The proposal includes a reduction in the size of the Orchestra, preferably accomplished through voluntary retirements and attrition. However, if position eliminations are necessary, the SPCO is proposing a special severance package of $100,000.
In his letter to unioin musicians Dobson West says the SPCO has eliminated $1.5 million in annual expenses from the budget, yet maintains that the orchestra's deficit last year was nearly $1 million dollars.
"If we continue with the current contract, this year's deficit will exceed that number," West wrote. "Repeated deficits of this magnitude will threaten the very existence of the SPCO."
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )