SPCO contract negotiations continue… slowly

SPCO musician contract negotiations have been underway for seven months now, but opinions differ on what progress, is any, has been made.


Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra concertmaster Steven Copes, associate concertmaster Ruggero Allifranchini and principal cello Ronald Thomas.

Photo by Sarah Rubinstein

Dobson West, President and Chair of the SPCO Board of Directors, says the SPCO faces a challenging financial situation, and despite working aggressively to reduce expenses, the orchestra will have a $1 million deficit for 2012. According to a recent update by West, the board seeks to reduce the cost of the musicians’ contract by $1.5 million but the latest round of talks, held on July 10 and 11, yielded little.

At the end of these meetings, it remained the Union’s position that the size of the orchestra should remain at 34 musicians with pay, benefits and other compensation no less than they are today, and that the financial challenges faced by the SPCO should be solved through revenue increases. Clearly, this was not meaningful progress, although important issues received attention in our meetings.

In a phone conversation, West said he would not characterize the current situation as a stalemate. “There hasn’t been any significant movement, but we have had a lot of good discussions, ” he said.

Meanwhile Carole Mason Smith, Chair of the negotiating committee, says the musicians remain “hopeful and optimistic.”

Progress is being made and we will continue to work with management to find meaningful solutions to maintaining the excellence of the SPCO. We have taken significant concessions over the past three years to help the organization, and we want to continue to explore new ways to generate sustainable revenue streams.

In the coming weeks board members will meet with major contributors to look at the potential for increased, sustainable revenue. Negotiations with musicians will continue on August 1 and 2. You can read the rest of West’s update here.

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