Things are looking bleak at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) where mediated talks conducted under a press blackout have broken down. The SPCO musicians released a statement on 1/17/2013 castigating their employer for what they defined as an “unwillingness to compromise on key issues” and cancelling additional concerts through 3/23/2013.
Unfortunately, neither side provided details surrounding the key issues of compensation and artistic control that caused the breakdown, however, an article by Euan Kerr published in the 1/18/2013 edition of Minnesota Public Radio indicates the source of trouble appears to be a zero-sum approach to bargaining; a topic we’ve examined within the parameters of other orchestral labor disputes.
In this instance, SPCO interim president, Dobson West, stated that the orchestra is unwilling to negotiate terms that fail to meet predefined budget cuts.
[West] said he has made it clear from the start that the orchestra needs to cut $1.4 million a year from the cost of the musicians contract.
“But within that parameter we are open to a wide variety of ways of achieving that result and I think the way that we have negotiated has demonstrated that we are open to finding different ways of achieving those savings,” West said.
Additionally, the article reports that musicians are also unhappy with “issues related to artistic control,” although no specific examples were provided.
Currently, there are no additional bargaining sessions scheduled and the musicians are continuing to schedule self produced events. The SPCO continues to maintain a Concert Cancellations page at their website with instructions for obtaining refunds and information on additional options.