The last hurdle to ending the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra lockout appears to have been cleared, according to a statement released by Dobson West, SPCO president and board chair, Thursday afternoon.

An agreement with the national union overseeing rights to the orchestra's digital recordings has been reached, and a full, formal proposal has been submitted to the musicians' negotiating committee. If the musicians ratify the tentative agreement, the lockout will end and concerts could resume as soon as May 9.

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

The musicians are now reviewing the final documents and working to get all members in a position to vote, said spokesman Robb Leer. 

Management has 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, and six SPCO musicians are out of town with commitments precluding 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, and they need a little more time to make that happen," Leer said.

The orchestra currently has 34 musicians. The new contract calls for a reduction 6 members, down to 28, with offers of early retirement to members aged 55 or older.

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