SPCO puts forth new proposal, sets new deadline

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has made a new offer to its musicians and set a new deadline.


SPCO violins

Photo by Sarah Rubenstein

In contract talks that finished today, the SPCO put forth a new proposal that’s basically the same as the previous one but extends its duration from three to four years and includes a one-time payment of $2,000.00 per musician in the fourth year.

It also told musicians it would give them until Tuesday to respond.

The musicians say they need more information on the new proposal before they can respond in any time frame.

The musicians also told the orchestra they wouldn’t be available to meet again for further negotiations until November 3.

Both sides are expressing frustration with the talks. In a prepared statement, SPCO Interim President Dobson West said,

“It should come as no surprise that we are frustrated by the lack of progress in these negotiations. The Union and the Society agree that the SPCO faces a significant financial challenge, but the Union continues to reject that a significant reduction in the cost of the contract must be part of the solution. The Union has yet to provide us with a proposal that materially reduces the cost of the contract, and instead continues to insist that our audience and donors shoulder the burden. Meanwhile, each day that we continue to operate under the expired contract, we add to our deficit. We have been willing to “play and talk” because we want to keep the music going, but we cannot continue to operate this way for much longer.”

The musicians also released their own statement:

“After the latest round of negotiations…. We’re frustrated by the fact that management will not budge even an inch on their short sided proposal that will destroy the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra as we know it. Our latest offer includes a ten percent reduction in compensation that saves management nearly a million dollars over the next three years. Management wants everyone to believe they are offering musicians an additional year on a new contract and at a higher salary. But the truth is – the compensation in that final year is still 30 percent less than what were currently making and the health care costs would offset any increase in salary.

We will continue to play and talk and work hard to reach a resolution… but it has become clear that management is disingenuous when they say they want to preserve the quality of our world class orchestra.”

No new talks have been scheduled.

  • Mn music supporter

    Mr West,

    “The Union has yet to provide us with a proposal that materially reduces the cost of the contract, and instead continues to insist that our audience and donors shoulder the burden”

    If the musicians played for free the audience and donors would still shoulder the burden- that’s the way a non profit works. They don’t make and sell widgets. They are the product; without them there is no SPCO!

    If you can’t provide the leadership this orchestra deserves please step aside and allow someone who understands the arts to take your place.

    I can’t believe these union busting political agendas are being allowed to destroy Minnesota’s two most important arts organizations

  • Kathy Ohnstad

    Amen. It is classic union busting. Imagine if someone like Garrison Keillor was running either the Minnesota Orchestra or the St Paul Chamber Orchestra what a different scene these two great organizations would have. Step aside hedge fund managers and bankers and let the people with some vision lead. You’ve had your little fun.

  • lee4713

    And another amen. The musicians are the ones shouldering the burden for management’s refusal to raise ticket prices a modest amount and for their refusal to see that “building loyalty” is a tricky marketing and development strategy. I am a sustaining donor in the “small” category and I feel that ticket prices are unsustainable. If you mess with the product – i.e. the musicians – then it won’t matter how cheap the tickets are. I won’t be driving 40 minutes to St. Paul even for a free concert if the orchestra is trashed.

    The management should have been doing a better job of encouraging donations. This is the first ever program book in which I have seen a notice about “if you feel ticket prices are too low, then you may donate” or words to that effect. People support what they value, and the management has been doing a great job of devaluing the orchestra.

  • M. R. Olson

    Why is it, Mr. West, that you believe donors and audience members feel as if they “shoulder the burden” of paying musicians? Institutional and individual donors to the SPCO are just that – donors. Donors ‘donate’; they neither purchase nor invest. Donors give to an arts organization because they believe in its mission and not because it’s a simple, commercial transaction (such as buying groceries or financing an acquisition). Donors give freely and without angst because they wish to support a non-profit. I, on the other hand, as an audience member, purchase a ticket and expect to receive in return the experience of music played by a world class orchestra. Audience members are involved in a commercial transaction. News flash, Mr. West: we audience members don’t feel it’s a burden to pay for the services of world class musicians nor for the services of world class athletes such as the Twin’s Joe Mauer (although I’m beginning to think it’s a burden for a portion of my SPCO ticket to pay your compensation!). This construct of yours clearly illustrates a naivety of and inexperience in successfully managing a non-profit. You may have had a successful career in mergers and acquisitions, Mr. West, but in your short time at the helm of the SPCO you not only insult your patrons but you appear to be in over your head.