The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and its musicians met for contract talks today. Since the orchestra's musician contract expired last month, the orchestra has been in what's called 'play & talk' mode, which lets both sides keep negotiating while the musicians continue performing under the old contract. SPCO management proposed that the musicians play and talk under the terms of the orchestra's latest offer, which would cut musician salaries by 15-percent. Musicians rejected the idea.
SPCO Interim President Dobson West says the orchestra would like to continue the 'play and talk' process, but needs to do it in a financially responsible way.
"We cannot afford to continue to play and talk under the current contract. It is just too expensive for us. And at some point, the union needs to acknowledge that we need to have substantial savings from the costs of the contract."
The musicians say they're still digesting the terms of the orchestra's latest offer but say they are not happy with most of it. Trumpet player Lynn Erickson is with the musicians' negotiating committee.
"If we were to accept their proposal right now and play and talk under it, they would start to implement all of the things that they would like to happen under their proposal, and we don't agree with many of the things in their proposal."
Erickson says the musicians offered to continue playing and talking under the old contract but at a reduced base salary rate of $70-thousand a year. The orchestra rejected that approach, saying it would still add to the orchestra's one million dollar deficit..
When asked whether the SPCO was preparing to lock out its musicians, West responded that the orchestra couldn't keep the current 'play and talk' process going much longer. The two sides are scheduled to meet again tomorrow.