Tentative Deal Signals End to St. Paul Orchestra Lockout

Tentative Deal Signals End to St. Paul Orchestra Lockout

Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians, who have been locked out since October, have agreed to vote on management’s latest offer, although management must first reach a separate agreement with a national union.

Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) management and the union representing its musicians reached a tentative deal Tuesday night—one that could herald the end of the orchestra’s six-month lockout.

After months of contentious negotiations, Carole Mason-Smith, co-chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee, said in a Tuesday statement that musicians have agreed to vote on management’s latest proposal. The move marked a reversal, as the union initially rejected the deal.

The proposal will be brought before musicians for a vote once management reaches a separate agreement with a national union, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), regarding digital media use. Throughout negotiations, musicians have stressed that a deal must first be reached with the AFM before the local union can hold a contract vote. The AFM talks pertain to broadcast and Internet usage of SPCO material.

The SPCO musicians’ negotiating committee will recommend that players ratify the contract, once musicians hold an official vote.

When asked when exactly the AFM matter is expected to be resolved, Jessica Etten, a spokeswoman for the orchestra’s management organization, told Twin Cities Business by e-mail: “We hope that we will be able to come to an agreement with the AFM very soon.”

Musicians and management both announced their tentative agreement Tuesday night—shortly after the orchestra’s board was scheduled to meet and discuss the orchestra’s future, including the likely cancelation of the remainder of the season.

That’s because musicians missed a Monday deadline, which management said must be met in order to resume concerts this season.

But now it appears that the orchestra may be able to salvage a portion of this season, which ends June 8.

“There are logistics that will need to be worked through in terms of how soon concerts can resume, but the goal is to get back to bringing great music to this community as quickly as possible,” SPCO President Dobson West said in a statement Tuesday night.

The contract that musicians will vote on was presented to them on Friday. It includes a base salary of $60,000, representing a reduction of about 18 percent from the $73,732 salary musicians received for the 2011 to 2012 season. The size of the orchestra, meanwhile, would be reduced by six players, to include a total of 28 musicians.

Tuesday morning, before the two sides announced they had reached an agreement, musicians made a last-minute request for amendments to a date tied to retirement packages and language regarding an artistic review committee.

The proposal that musicians will vote on is considered a “play-and-talk” contract, which will allow them to negotiate such amendments through June 30. If no amendments are agreed upon, the contract will remain as-is.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who for about a month has helped broker a deal between players and management, said in a Tuesday statement that “both sides have been working tirelessly in pursuit of this agreement for many months,” and both parties made major concessions in order to reach a deal.

“At the end of the day, this treasured institution is larger than any individual board member, musician, staff member, or mayor,” Coleman said. “Today’s agreement means that the world’s best chamber orchestra—our Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra—will be enjoyed for generations to come.”

SPCO musicians have been without a contract since September 30, at which date they temporarily worked under the terms of their former contract while negotiating a new one. They were locked out in late October, as both sides remained distant from a resolution.