COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — These are difficult days for the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. Live events are prohibited because of the pandemic, but ticket sales are the group's main source of revenue. The orchestra's musicians union has been negotiating with management since their contract was canceled two months ago.
"We appreciate our musicians, we are huge fans of theirs. They are the philharmonic, after all," said CEO Nathan Newbrough. "But unfortunately this pandemic has put us all in an impossible situation."
The two sides signed the new contract in April following an earlier period of negotiations. At that time, the statewide Stay-at-Home order was in full swing. Newbrough used PPP loans and other government relief to pay musicians through the summer.
"We actively avoided canceling their contract for many months," Newbrough said. "We paid them their full salaries through the summertime just to get them by. But we knew that wasn't sustainable in the long-term when there are no concerts."
Bass trombonists Jeremy Van Hoy is chair of the Orchestra Players Committee. He said the union offered multiple times to restructure the contract, but their offers were rejected.
"The musicians are ready to work tomorrow with an agreement in place," he said. "We hope that cooler heads will prevail, this has not been referred to arbitration yet."
Under their most recent offer, Van Hoy said the musicians agreed to give up their salaries through the end of the pandemic plus an additional six months.
"We said we would work on a per-service basis, meaning, as concerts are scheduled, and as rehearsals are scheduled, you'd pay us for those services, but we would forgo our normal salaried basis of payroll," Van Hoy explained.
Mediation has been called off after the latest rejection from management. The dispute appears to be headed toward arbitration, but Van Hoy said he would prefer not to see it get that far.
"It's an unfortunate process because it's so lengthy and expensive, both sides hire lawyers," he said.
Van Hoy believes Newbrough's cancellation is invalid and called the move illegal in a news release. Newbrough said the contract contained a clause to allow for cancellation in the event of a catastrophe.
"Their contract actually includes cancellation in the case of Force Majeure, which means a catastrophe just like this pandemic," he said.
Like Van Hoy, he said he also wants to avoid arbitration.