Five months after their counterparts in the Minnesota Orchestra signed a contract extension, musicians at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra have ratified a two-year deal that will take them to June 30, 2018.
The new pact will become effective July 1, when the current contract — signed after a six-month lockout in 2012-13 — expires.
The terms were strictly financial. Musicians making less than $80,000 a year will receive a $4,000 raise in the first year and $2,000 in the second. Musicians above the $80,000 threshold will only get the bump in year two. The guaranteed minimum salary will rise to $66,000 in 2018, an increase of 10 percent over two years. The roster will stay at 28 players.
A group of musicians had been meeting with board and management representatives regularly during the past 18 months on artistic matters. In June, the two sides decided to pursue an extension.
Violinist Nina Tso-Ning Fan said the players were pleased to win back some of the concession the union made in the lockout-ending contract in April 2013. That deal cut base pay by 18.6 percent to $60,000 annually and trimmed overscale compensation by 20 percent for a 36-week season. (The Minnesota Orchestra, by contrast, has a 52-week contract.)
The roster limit covered by that contract was reduced to 28 musicians from 34. There are currently 21 musicians on contract. Five others are on roster just for the 2015-16 season, according to an SPCO spokesman.
"We look forward to focusing our work this season on playing great concerts, rather than on negotiations," Fan said in a statement.
Management had locked out players in November 2012, which made the Twin Cities the only major market to have two world-class orchestras shuttered at the same time. The Minnesota Orchestra had shut down on Oct. 1, 2012, and would stay that way until February 2014.
SPCO President Bruce Coppock, who was on the board but not in his current office during the lockout, said the extension ensures that the SPCO "will continue to be an artistically vibrant part of this community for years to come."
He acknowledged the sacrifice made by higher-paid musicians, who will not receive a raise in the first year of the extension. "Helping to close the pay gap between principal and non-principal players was one of the most resonant themes of our conversations," Coppock said.
He also said he anticipates the SPCO will be able to announce a balanced budget in December, the 20th in 22 seasons.
The SPCO is in its 57th season, having welcomed in the past two years two high-profile musicians as artistic partners. Pianist Jeremy Denk and clarinetist Martin Fröst joined a group that included Christian Zacharias, Thomas Zehetmair and Patricia Kopatchinskaja.