War of words continues after SPCO musicians vote

The relative quiet after last nights announcement that locked out musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber orchestra had voted to reject management’s latest contract proposal has preceded a storm of reaction today.

This morning Interim SPCO President Dobson West released a statement to SPCO supporters raising a disturbing question.

“As you may have heard, yesterday, in a secret “non-binding, non-ratifying” vote, the Musicians of the SPCO rejected the proposal developed with the aid of Mayor Coleman’s office. I am dismayed to report we have now learned that a number of Musicians were not permitted to vote yesterday.”

“As we have made clear before, if we do not have an agreement with both the Local Union and the American Federation of Musicians by 5:00 pm on Monday, April 8, we will be forced to cancel the balance of this season. Our proposal remains open for the Musicians to accept, and we call on them to take our proposal to a vote in which no Musicians are denied the ability to participate.”

The musicians said last night that even if they had wanted to approve the proposal they couldn’t because they believe the management offer is contingent on a local agreement on media rights, which the musicians say can only be negotiated by the national union, the American Federation of Musicians.

In a conversation this morning West told me all local references have been removed from the proposal and the offer resubmitted.

All of these issues were then addressed by a release from the musicians in the early afternoon.

It begins by describing the West release as totally misleading, and then continues: “The phrase “non-binding, non-ratifying” is a phrase that Mayor Coleman’s office created and not a creation of the Negotiating Committee or the Musicians Union. It was used to assure that the procedure was conducted as the Mayor wished it to be conducted.”

“As in most organizations, when major matters involving complicated documents which need to be explained and reviewed are to be decided, only those members who hear the discussions concerning those matters are eligible to vote. That is the procedure which was followed yesterday by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Musicians.”

“We do not know the sources of President West’s information but they are once again wrong. The vote rejecting the proposal was overwhelming. There were five members who did not vote, but even if all of those members had voted for the proposal it would have been rejected.”

With regard to the disagreement between the musicians and management (described in its formal title of the St Paul Chamber Orchestra Society) over the negotiation of electronic rights the musicians say this: “The Society’s proposals include several ways in which Musicians can be unfairly removed from the Orchestra. The proposals of the Negotiating Committee provide protections to Musicians, and preserves Management’s right to remove Musicians for any improper behavior. Such fairness should be accepted by the Society. ”

“The proposals of the Society include the contingency that nothing is agreed to unless the Society also reaches agreement with the AFM on electronic media issues. All other orchestras in America negotiate local terms and conditions with their local committees and unions, and separately and independently negotiate electronic media issues with the AFM. The SPCO cannot be treated differently. In addition, the Society proposals include terms and conditions which cannot be considered by the Musicians and the Local Unions without the Society having first reached agreement with the AFM. The issues to be settled with the AFM should not prevent entering into a local agreement which will put the Musicians on stage to present the music that we all love.”

Both sides say they are willing to keep talking to save the rest of the season. However with the Monday deadline fast approaching they clearly have their work set out for them