With a lockout looming this weekend, musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra said Friday that the earliest they would vote on management's offer is Oct. 31.

That is 10 days after the SPCO's deadline for approving the proposal. Earlier this week, management said it would lock out musicians if they did not accept the deal by 6 p.m. Sunday.

Friday's letter from the Twin Cities Musicians Union does not change that deadline, said the SPCO's president, Dobson West. "If they do not get back to us with an approval vote by 6 p.m Sunday, we will lock them out," he said Friday afternoon. "We need to reduce the cost of the contract by a significant amount."

Because the orchestra is not playing this week, many players are out of town, said Carole Mason Smith, head of the musicians' negotiating committee. The earliest that a majority would be available to vote would be the 31st, she said.

The letter from Brad Eggen, president of the union, says that management has not responded to requests for financial information and has rebuffed the union's proposal that SPCO ticket prices be modestly increased.

Management opposes ticket-price increases. Fuller houses due to lower prices have increased net ticket revenue, West said.

The SPCO intends to furnish the financial information to the union by Oct. 25, as requested in the union letter, West said.

The management proposal would cut average annual guaranteed pay (base salary and overscale) to $62,500, from $93,280, or a 33 percent overall reduction, according to the union.

A lockout would mean the musicians would receive no pay or benefits, and would cancel concerts through Nov. 4.

Staff writer Claude Peck contributed to this report.