Jan. 23: Members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra filled the committee hearing room where the Minnesota House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee was examining the economic impact of employee lockouts.

Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

SPCO musicians reject "talk and play"

  • Article by: Graydon Royce
  • Star Tribune
  • February 27, 2013 - 3:45 PM

Talks between union musicians and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra will continue Wednesday as the two sides seek to settle a lockout that has lasted more than four months.

Negotiations on Monday did not produce agreement on a “talk-and-play” proposal that had been on the table. “We still want to keep talking; we still want to reach a settlement,” said Carole Mason Smith, head of the musicians’ committee, said.

Players and management appear to have nudged closer to agreement on such issues as the number of players in the ensemble, an early retirement proposal and job security. There remains serious disagreement on pay issues and artistic control.

Also, the American Federation of Musicians has objected to a management proposal regarding unlimited use of recorded concerts. The AFM argues that it is the sole bargaining agent for any agreement concerning archived material. SPCO musicians are not authorized to make a deal, the international says.

Musicians were locked out Oct. 21 after talks broke down on a new collective-bargaining agreement. The union says that sharp pay cuts will crimp the SPCO’s ability to retain world-class musicians. Management says revenue from all sources has struggled to keep pace with expenses. The SPCO announced a deficit of $895,000 for fiscal 2012.

While SPCO concerts have been canceled through March 23, the society continues to present its Liquid Music series. The labor dispute spilled into that arena this week, too.

The SPCO said that the new-music ensemble yMusic, which was expected to appear Tuesday and Wednesday nights, was told by the New York AFM local that “union regulations do not permit them to perform in this program,” according to a news release. The subsequent withdrawal of yMusic was not expected to affect the appearance of Shara Worden, lead singer and songwriter for the group My Brightest Diamond.

Meanwhile, locked-out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra asked to be allowed to attend a Thursday meeting between donors and orchestra management. Previous requests have been denied, and an orchestra spokesperson said this meeting — intended as a small gathering that allows donors to question management about negotiations — would remain closed.

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299

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