St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman last week pressed management and musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra to resolve their labor dispute and get back to playing concerts.

An open letter today from Dobson West, president of the SPCO, said Coleman "expressed his concern forcefully to both sides that the remainder of our concert season is at risk and a cancellation of that season would result in serious long-term consequences for the SPCO and the city."

Coleman asked SPCO management to make a new proposal to musicians, "containing significant concessions," West wrote.

Musicians are meeting Friday to consider a new proposal from management that would eliminate a two-tier pay scale that they have opposed. It also offers them a guaranteed annual salary of $60,000, an increase of $4,000 from the last offer, but still well below what they had been making before being locked out last October in this dispute. Also on the table is an increase in the minimum guaranteed overscale so that no musician will receive less than 80 percent of what they currently earn in overscale, versus a previous offer of 50 percent.

Other revisions in the current offer cover areas of early retirement, insurance benefits, the size of the orchestra and the process for making decisions on personnel and programming.

As has happened at least once before, the musicians are deciding whether to accept these new contract provisions in a "play and talk" scheme that would allow concerts to begin as more negotiations are scheduled between now and June 30. Management said it must reach a decision on this proposal not later than April 8, after which time it would have to cancel the remainder of the concert season.

Musicians are expected to have an announcement on the plan later on Friday. Look for updates at when they become available.

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