This is the text of a letter emailed to Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra subscribers from SPCO President Dobson West. In the next-to-last paragraph, West writes, “Knowing how far we are from an agreement, and in consideration of the needs of our audience and guest artists to plan ahead, we have made the decision to cancel concerts through December 31st.”:
Dear Members of the SPCO Family,
As you know, the Musicians yesterday rejected the Society’s latest proposal, without counterproposal or comment. Our proposal would have aligned our expenses with our sustainable revenues allowing us to stop adding to our deficit, and would have ensured we could continue to attract and retain world class Musicians. The proposal included:
• Average cash compensation of over $78,000 for current Musicians, including estimated individually negotiated overscale
• An average total compensation package (including benefits) for current Musicians of over $97,000 for 32 weeks of performances
• A smaller orchestra (approximately 28 full-time positions versus today’s 34)
• A voluntary retirement package of up to $200,000 for any Musicians over 55 who want to retire
The Union’s position is now very clear: a total compensation package of over $97,000 for 32 performance weeks is not enough, and an orchestra of any less than 34 players is unacceptable. While we understand the Musicians’ desire for more compensation and a larger ensemble, we have to face reality: we can only spend what this community is able to afford.
We had a deficit of nearly $1 million last year, despite having eliminated $1.5 million in annual expenses since the start of the recession. We face increasing deficits in the years to come if we don’t achieve a significant reduction in the expense of the Musician contract. The Musicians have acknowledged the severity of our financial situation, but have not made any proposals that materially reduce the expense of their contract. Their approach would result in continuing deficits, threatening the very future of this organization.
Knowing how far we are from an agreement, and in consideration of the needs of our audience and guest artists to plan ahead, we have made the decision to cancel concerts through December 31st. Ticket holders for canceled concerts will be contacted today, and information will also be posted on the SPCO website. Once again, no immediate action will be required by ticket holders, as tickets will automatically be banked in patrons’ accounts for future use. Options will include the opportunity to exchange tickets into another concert, turn back tickets as a tax-deductible contribution to the SPCO or receive a refund.
We continue to want to work collaboratively with our Musicians on a solution that ensures both the financial sustainability and artistic excellence of the SPCO. Our next negotiations session will take place on November 8, and it is our hope that the Union will come forward with a proposal that materially reduces the cost of the contract so that we can get back to bringing great music to this community.
Dobson West, President