Musicians at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra are mulling a "talk and play" proposal from management. The union has until Monday to formally respond.

If accepted, the proposal is intended to preclude more canceled concerts in the SPCO season. In an e-mail, Carole Mason Smith, head of the musicians bargaining committee, said her group is studying the proposal and asking for some clarifications.

Should the musicians approve the proposal, negotiations would still continue toward a new contract. According to the management offer, the "talk and play" period would extend to June 30.

The terms of the package include a 28-player ensemble, a retirement program for players 55 or older, and a guarantee that no current musician would lose his or her job.

On salary, the SPCO offered two alternatives:

1) A guaranteed annual amount of $50,000 with $1,000 bumps in each of two subsequent years. And a guaranteed overscale of $12,500 for current musicians.

2) A guaranteed annual salary of $56,000, again with $1,000 bumps, but with no mention of the guaranteed overscale. Of course, individual musicians can negotiate overscale.

The distinctions are intended to address musician concerns that a two-tier wage system was being set up in which new players would receive a lower rate of pay, without the overscale guarantee. The choice is whether current musicians want to accept a lower overall guarantee.

The full proposal is at:


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