SPCO musicians to vote on contract

Agreement on digital recordings removed the final obstacle. If deal is approved, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra season could resume by May 9.

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The musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra held a free concert Oct. 2, 2012, in the Leonard Center Gymnasium on the Macalester College campus in St. Paul.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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A final hurdle to ending the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra labor dispute appears to have been cleared.

SPCO management said Thursday that it was submitting a new labor contract to the musicians for a vote after it reached agreement with the American Federation of Musicians, the national union overseeing rights to the orchestra’s digital recordings.

If the musicians ratify the tentative agreement, the six-month-old lockout will end and concerts could resume as soon as May 9, said Dobson West, the orchestra’s president and board chair.

The musicians have been locked out since Oct. 21. Their negotiating committee and management agreed April 10 to a deal, brokered in part by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, that cuts salaries by 18 percent and reduces the orchestra’s size from 34 to 28 musicians.

Because the agreement is “work and play,” both sides can continue to address small issues until June 30. Otherwise, the contract will continue through the 2015-16 season.

“We are looking forward to bringing great music back to the community soon,” West said in a statement.

Management asked for a vote by 5 p.m. Monday. But musicians are asking for more time, because union rules require that the votes be received on paper ballots to be delivered in person or by mail. Six SPCO players are out of town with commitments that preclude their return to vote that quickly.

“They want to get back to work as quickly as possible, but also want to do whatever they can so all members have a chance to cast a vote,” said Rob Leer, spokesman for the musicians. “They need a little more time to make that happen.”

Opera musicians reach a deal

Also announced Thursday: The Minnesota Opera has reached a tentative agreement with its orchestra musicians for a new four-year contract effective July 1.

Musician pay will remain flat in the first year, with small increases in per-service fees and pension contributions after that.

 

Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046

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