SPCO, musicians battle over pay-cut numbers

Orchestra management says the trims it wants average 14 percent, not the 33 percent figure floated by the union.

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Concerts by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, shown in Stillwater in 2011, are canceled through Nov. 4.

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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The management of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is locked in an apples-and-oranges debate with its locked-out musicians.

The salary trims sought by management average just under 14 percent, SPCO President Dobson West said in a statement Thursday. West contrasted that figure with the 33 percent pay cut claimed by the musicians' union.

But the opposing sides are operating with different, imprecise numbers.

"We had to make some assumptions [in the calculations], because individual contracts have not been made," SPCO spokeswoman Jessica Etten said.

Management, which locked out musicians on Sunday, released the statement in response to the union's request for a detailed breakdown of the financial implications of the current contract offer.

The SPCO has said it must find $1.5 million in labor savings. On Thursday, management said the current contract would save only $622,000 in the next year. The potential for more savings would come in the 2013-14 season, with a reduction in the number of musicians -- another contested issue, as the union doesn't support a smaller chamber orchestra.

Carole Mason Smith, who heads the musicians' negotiating committee, had just received the response when contacted by the Star Tribune. She said she needed time to analyze it over the weekend.

"We're still disagreeing about numbers, and we have to decide whether their assumptions are valid," she said.

Concerts by the SPCO are canceled through Nov. 4. Etten said that any decision regarding concert cancellations after that date are "on hold" awaiting a musicians' vote.

The union plans to meet on Oct. 31 to discuss the response, Smith said, "and we hope to be able to vote."

Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046

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