With contract set to expire Sunday, SPCO musicians ask supporters to take action

Musicians of the SPCO give a free concert as part of their commitment to the long-term financial stability of the orchestra.

With their contract set to expire Sunday, the Musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra are encouraging supporters to show their appreciation for the quality and artistry union members bring to the SPCO by attending one of two concerts this weekend – and by calling SPCO management.

The SPCO will give performances of “American Romantics and Maria Schneider” at 8 p.m. tonight at Wayzata Community Church, 125 E. Wayzata Blvd., and at 8 p.m. tomorrow at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, 900 Summit Ave., St. Paul.

The musicians, members of Twin Cities Musicians Union Local 30-73, are also encouraging fans to contact SPCO management with an appeal to reconsider a counterproposal the union offered during contract talks Sept. 25.

Rejected by management a day later, the counteroffer would have cut musicians’ salaries by 10.5 percent across the board over the next two years and by 4 percent in the third year – in exchange for “shared sacrifice” from SPCO management.

According to the union, it would save the SPCO more than $700,000 over the course of the three-year pact.

Management has said it is seeking $1.5 million in cost savings from the musicians’ contract – a figure musicians say is impossible to reach without compromising the SPCO’s artistic quality.

“It is disheartening that management isn’t interested in preserving this historic ensemble,” said Carole Smith, a bassoonist and chair of the union’s Negotiations Committee. “We need the public now more than ever to contact management and ask them to reconsider – time is running out.”

The counterproposal includes other concessions designed to help the SPCO raise revenue, including free musician performances eight times each year and performances at small gatherings of SPCO donors.

Musicians say the SPCO has the money in hand to maintain operations without drastic cuts. The union’s counteroffer, Smith said, would provide management with the savings it needs in the short run in order “to finally put together an effective endowment drive.”

For more on the negotiations, go to the Musicians of the SPCO website.

%d bloggers like this: