St. Paul mayor brokers a likely SPCO settlement

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 5, 2013 - 9:22 PM

If pact brokered by Chris Coleman stands, 14 concerts could be salvaged.

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St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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In a letter to locked-out musicians on Friday, Coleman said he took their remaining contract concerns to orchestra management and received positive responses.

“Therefore, I believe that all remaining local issues between the SPCO management and the musicians that were prohibiting the resumption of the season are resolved,” the mayor wrote.

The SPCO season was suspended on Oct. 21 when musicians rejected a contract proposal and were locked out.

Minnesota Orchestra musicians have been locked out in their own pay dispute that recently passed the six-month mark, becoming the longest of any U.S. symphony in decades.

There is still some work to be done, said Carole Mason Smith, head of the SPCO musicians’ negotiating team. Their attorney, who was flying to Cleveland, would review the agreement Friday evening, she said.

“I think this is very hopeful,” Mason Smith said. “We hope to get a vote as soon as possible, but I’m sure there are some clarifications that need to be made.”

Dobson West, interim SPCO president, said in an interview, “This does give us a way to at least have the local deal essentially done.”

This deal would guarantee an annual base salary of $60,000, which is down about 18 percent from current levels. Also, the size of the full-time ensemble would be reduced to 28, from 34 players. The deal would also institute an early-retirement program.

If ratified, the deal technically is a “talk-and-play” agreement. If no other deal is negotiated by June 30, however, the terms of this agreement would extend for three years, through the 2015-16 season.

Still unresolved is an agreement with the national American Federation of Musicians (AFM) related to electronic music distribution rights. West wrote in a letter to stakeholders Friday afternoon that he will not formally submit the mayor’s proposal “until such time as we have reached an agreement with the AFM.”

“If we’re where the mayor thinks we are, then we can pitch a deal to the AFM,” West said.

Coleman was not available to comment further Friday.

Concerts possible after May 5

West said that if the musicians’ negotiating committee indicates by 5 p.m. Monday that it will recommend ratification, the SPCO will begin talks with the AFM, with a deadline of April 15 in order to restart concerts, likely after May 5.

Equally important is the SPCO’s ability to announce and start marketing a 2013-14 season. Traditionally by now, programs have been announced and tickets are being sold.

Coleman, who last fall offered his services to find a settlement, entered the process in mid-March and helped to produce a proposal on March 20 that musicians turned down in a nonbinding vote.

West said he understands the mayor asked musicians on Wednesday about their objections. West and several board members then spent several hours Thursday addressing those questions. They dealt with payment for freelance substitutes, guarantees of protection from reprisals for union activities (already prohibited under federal labor law), rules surrounding the recording of rehearsals, and artistic review.

  • orchestra lockouts AT A GLANCE

    St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

    Musicians locked out: Oct. 21, 2012.

    Number of concerts canceled: 74, through April 21.

    State of negotiations: Deal brokered by St. Paul Mayor Coleman appears to be basis for agreement.

    Current terms: $60,000 annual guarantee (cut of 18.6 percent); 28-member orchestra, down from 34.

    Minnesota orchestra

    Musicians locked out: Oct. 1, 2012.

    Concerts canceled: 68, through April 27.

    State of negotiations: One meeting since Oct. 1. Working out terms for an independent financial analysis.

    Current terms: Management proposal of $78,000 annual guarantee (cut of 30 percent).

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