UPDATE: The “Orchestra Contract Negotiations Links” box on the right side of MNuet’s home page will bring you directly to web sites run by the musicians and management of each orchestra. There, you’ll find the most up to date information—from the perspectives of each side.
The Minnesota Orchestra has asked musicians to lower their annual base salaries by 28 percent, among other concessions, in negotiations for a new contract. The orchestra released details of its financial position and proposal to musicians on the same day the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, going through its own tense negotiations with musicians, laid out its landscape in an email to subscribers.
Minnesota Orchestra’s management laid out its proposal for public inspection. The crux of it has the orchestra dropping musicians’ annual base salaries to $78,000. They’re now at $109,000, not including benefits.
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra also made a public pitch Wednesday morning for understanding and support in its efforts to reach a new contract with its musicians.
In an emailed newsletter to Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra subscribers, board president Dobson West addressed the orchestra’s financial position and negotiations for a new contract with orchestra musicians. This is an excerpt from that letter, which began with a promotional for the SPCO concerts this weekend.
Here is meat of West’s newsletter:
In the midst of the excitement surrounding the start of our new season, you may also have heard that the SPCO and its musicians’ union are in the process of negotiating a new contract, as the current contract expires on September 30. The SPCO, like many orchestras across the country, faces a challenging financial situation due to long-term changes in the arts funding landscape, exacerbated by the economic downturn. We’ve done much to avoid deficits in recent years through aggressive expense reduction on the administrative side of the budget, having eliminated over $1.5 million in annual expenses since 2008, including reducing the size of the staff by 17%. However, the work we’ve done to date has not been sufficient to solve our financial challenge, and we will have a deficit of up to $1 million for the fiscal year that ended in June. If nothing changes, we will face even larger deficits in the years to come.
Our future health and vitality is dependent on aligning our expenses with our predictable, sustainable revenues. Musicians’ salaries and benefits comprise the single largest expense item in the SPCO budget and we are now looking for the contract to be a part of the solution. It is our sincere hope to work as collaborators with our musicians in solving this challenge. We value our musicians’ considerable talents, training and dedication, and we are confident that by working together we can develop a solution that ensures the SPCO is both financially sustainable and artistically vibrant.
There have been some rumors circulating about what the SPCO Board and Management intend to accomplish through these negotiations, so I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight. The SPCO does not intend to reduce the number of orchestra concerts we offer to this community. We do not intend to cut musician compensation in half, create a part-time orchestra or move to a freelance model. We are committed to having a chamber orchestra of the highest caliber in this community for years to come, but we will only be able to accomplish this if we have a contract that we can afford.
As the season begins, it’s likely that our contract negotiations will become a more prominent part of the public discussion. If at any point you have questions about what you are hearing, we invite you to contact us directly. We will continue to provide you with updates as there is news to share, and you may also visit our negotiations updates webpage at thespco.org/contract.
On our News & Reviews page, we have links to more detailed stories from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio, including a nice breakdown by MPR’s Paul Tosto about what each side is asking for with both orchestras.