“New Financial Realities”- Letter to the Board from the Musicians of the SPCO Negotiating Committee

Dear Members of the Board of Directors of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Society,

We, the Musicians of the SPCO, are disheartened at the current status of the negotiations, and we share your urgent desire to resume concerts for the community. We are well aware of the financial challenges of the organization, regardless of the credit situation on hand and the companies who have tried to help. However, we feel there is a more nuanced financial picture than the one that the Management has painted, and there is more than one solution to the crisis.

We have recalculated the cost of our latest proposal, based on all the financial information the Management has provided us and the new harsh reality of the 10 week lockout. As you know, the Management has never budged from their demand that $1.5 million be cut from the Orchestra’s budget. In the spreadsheet that is attached, you will see that a large part of the present budget for the orchestra is for replacement and extra player costs. We discussed this issue in the last negotiation meeting on November 8, and Musicians pointed out that programming within a budget could lead to significant savings in this area. An increase in Baroque programming or a focus on Haydn Symphonies, for instance, could maximize the use of the current roster and save on the use of extras without compromising our artistic standards. If you find yourself wondering why the SPCO spent $1 million dollars on extra and replacement musicians last season, a year in which the Management projected a $1 million deficit and planned to impose devastating cuts to the Orchestra, you will begin to understand how far this organization has lost its way in terms of artistic vision and true collaboration.

The current lockout is having a devastating effect on the organization’s reputation and future viability as well as on the Musicians and their families, but it is saving the Society money. Even if Management were to end the lockout and resume concerts in the New Year, paying us at our current rate, we project that the Society would spend $1.15 million less on the Orchestra if it reins in the budget for extras and replacements. If the Management implemented the salary rates from our last proposal for FY14 and FY15, and the number of Musicians remained at 28 as we discussed in our last negotiation session, we project the Society could save $693,489.54 next season and $528,359.64 in the third year of the contract. (See accompanying spreadsheet.) Total savings in the Orchestra budget, including savings from the lockout, would be nearly $2.4 million over 3 years. Management’s claim that the Musicians are not willing to be a part of the financial solution for this organization is simply false.

All of these calculations, aside from future projections for the budget for extra musicians, are based on figures provided by the Management. At our last meeting, we also offered to discuss more savings if the Management would withdraw the most egregious parts of their proposal. Management simply refused and left the bargaining table.

We believe that if Musicians are engaged in a truly collaborative manner in making fiscally prudent decisions about artistic matters, the organization can emerge from this current crisis and start a rebuilding process. The collaboration needs to begin immediately. In order to implement large savings in the use of extras and replacements in an artistically responsible way for the following two years, the Artistic Vision Committee must resume its work on programming. The Executive Search Committee must resume its work to find a new President and Managing Director for the SPCO with new urgency. The severely depleted Development department must be restored and revitalized. All of these things are only possible if the lockout is ended and concerts resume. When Management stops insisting on retaining the ultimate authority to dismiss tenured musicians on grounds other than insufficient musical competency and acknowledges that the financial terms of the contract must be negotiated and not simply imposed upon the Musicians, we can return to the table and return to the stage to begin restoring this great chamber orchestra.


The Musicians of the SPCO Negotiating Committee

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