The latest on Minnesota Orchestra, SPCO labor talks

Contract negotiations at both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra continued today, but with little sign of progress.

MPR’s Euan Kerr reports that while Minnesota Orchestra musicians received a proposal from management five months ago, musician negotiator Tim Zavadil said players still don’t have enough information to respond properly.

“We renewed our call for an independent joint financial analysis of the orchestras finances so we can better understand the orchestra’s true financial position,” he said after the talks wrapped up for the day.


Minnesota Orchestra

Photo by Greg Helgeson, courtesy Minnesota Orchestra

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The management offer would cut the average pay of musicians from $135,000 a year to $89,000. Orchestra leadership says the cuts are necessary in the face of looming deficits, and as a way to make the orchestra sustainable in the future.

However musicians say for individual players this will represent a 30-50 percent cut. They say their primary concern is to maintain the Orchestras world class reputation, and such cuts will lead to musicians leaving for better paying jobs at other orchestras. A request by the players negotiating committee to speak to a meeting of the full board of the orchestra scheduled to follow the talks was denied.

RELATED STORY: Does SPCO, Minn. Orchestra musicians’ skill justify their pay?


Violist Sabina Thatcher and violinists Dale Barltrop and Daria T. Adams of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

Photo by Sarah Rubenstein

Meanwhile in St Paul, management of the St Paul Chamber Orchestra rejected a counter-proposal offered over the weekend by its musicians.

Two and a half weeks ago management put forward a proposal to cut musicians guaranteed pay by 15 percent to $62,500, reduce the number of players in the orchestra by 6 to 28, and to offer buy-outs to players aged 55 and over. Any new musicians would be hired at a base pay of $50,000.

The musicians counter-proposal offered a three year contract with a one percent pay cut for the first two years, followed by a four percent increase in the third year. It also maintained the number of musicians at current levels.

PRIMER: What you need to know about the Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO contract negotiations

SPCO management asked for another counter proposal which will save more money. Mason Smith said her group will meet to decide what to do in coming days. The next negotiating sessions for SPCO musicians and management are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

  • David Purcell

    Question #1: How did the Minnesota Orchestra obtain its world class status?

    Answer: Because the management practiced its most of its life to learn and perfect the skills needed to perform at a world class level? I don’t think business managers really believe that if they lower the pay by 30 to 50% of world class performers will take their instruments and leave. Oh by the way, would the managers of the MSO be willing to take a 30 to 50% pay cut to save their jobs which by the way they have learned and perfected over most of t their life’s?

  • Ed Staubach

    Our symphony here in Indianapolis has been locked out since the beginning of the month. The management proposals sound similar to those up north; drastic pay cuts; cut from 52 weeks to 30 some week season; and dismissal of some 25 players. Unless someone with leadership vision steps up, one more full time orchestra will disappear. Do not let the same happen to Minnesota.