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St. Paul mayor brokers possible deal to end SPCO lockout

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Two weeks after St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman first intervened in the long-running contract dispute between management and the locked-out musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, a resolution appears to be in sight, the Pioneer Press reports.

St. Paul's director of arts and culture for the city, Joe Spencer, said Coleman met with musicians Wednesday and took their contract concerns to SPCO management Thursday.

On Friday night, Coleman reportedly sent a letter to locked out musicians that said orchestra management had agreed to the musician's remaining demands.

"I believe that all remaining local issues between the SPCO management and the musicians that were prohibiting the resumption of the season are resolved," Coleman wrote in the letter.

Coleman's intervention initially spurred a new proposal from orchestra management March 22, and the musicians offered a counterproposal about a week later. The musicians took a non-binding, non-ratification vote last week, but the offer was rejected.

The SPCO lockout began Oct. 21. The Star Tribune says if an agreement is finally reached, the orchestra can salvage as many as 14 concerts this season.

According to the Star Tribune, the new deal calls for a $60,000, which is down about 18 percent from current salary levels. In addition, the size full-time orchestra would be reduced to 34 to 28 players, and a new early-retirement program would be instituted.

Another part of the deal, an agreement with the national American Federation of Musicians (AFM) relating to electronic music distribution rights, is still up in the air, the Star Tribune says.

Interim SPCO president Dobson West told the Star Tribune that if the musicians negotiating committee recommends ratification of the new deal by Monday at 5 p.m., management will begin talks with the AFM.

If an agreement is reached, the musicians could begin playing again as soon as May 5.

Meanwhile, there is no apparent movement in the work dispute between management and locked-out musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra.

The dispute, which began Oct. 1, hit the six-month mark Monday.

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