Musicians at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra on Monday rejected a deal that had been brokered in the office of Mayor Chris Coleman. The union said concerns about job security and contingencies placed on guaranteed pay were to blame for the plan’s failure. The vote, however, is not a formal ratification procedure and is not binding. The vote count was not released.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the results and we’ll have to regroup,” said Jessica Etten, an SPCO spokeswoman.
Carole Mason Smith, head of the musicians’ negotiating team, called the vote a “litmus test” on the mood of the players. The union actually has made a counterproposal to management that largely contains the same economic package: a $60,000 annual base salary, a special retirement package, a guarantee on overscale payments and a 28-member orchestra. However, Mason Smith cited other complications in procedures that contributed to the rejection.
Coleman had requested the musicians vote on the deal, but a hangup occurred when the national American Federation of Musicians argued that it alone was authorized to negotiate terms on the national distribution of electronic media. It would not allow musicians to vote on the management proposal.
In that spirit, Mason Smith said musicians made this vote nonbinding — to satisfy the national union and to satisfy the mayor’s request for a vote. The national union contends that until that issue is settled, SPCO musicians cannot ratify a new contract. The SPCO board has said a new deal must be reached by April 8 in order to save a remnant of the current season.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians agreed on two separate firms that would conduct an independent financial review of the organization. Both consultants are based in New York and discussions continue over the specific terms of the review.