Musicians of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic were dealt a blow Tuesday in an almost year-long struggle with management over their canceled contract.
Pikes Peak Musicians' Association, the union of professional musicians representing the orchestra's musicians, entered into arbitration with the nonprofit in December after its board of directors canceled the orchestra's contract in September.
The arbitrator found in favor of management, and that due to force majeure, or unforeseeable circumstances that prevent the fulfillment of a contract, management's decision to cancel the contract was appropriate and legal.
"We disagree with it, but it's binding arbitration," said philharmonic bass trombonist Jeremy Van Hoy, chair of the Players' Committee. "We have to pick ourselves up and keep moving."
In April 2020, the two sides forged a new five-year agreement that could have increased musicians’ pay by almost 30%. It was canceled after the pandemic shuttered the orchestra's new season, which would have opened Sept. 19, and caused revenue to plummet. The board came back with an offer in September that included more than $700,000 in wages, continued pension contributions, monthly health subsidy payments and other benefits, but it was rejected by the musicians' union.
Philharmonic management and the musicians' union will meet Aug. 17, in the first of three scheduled meetings, to work toward creating a new agreement that enables the musicians to return to work and once again perform concerts at Pikes Peak Center.
The philharmonic extended an offer to its musicians July 2, and the union is preparing a response to the offer, Van Hoy said.
In philharmonic president and CEO Nathan Newbrough's ideal scenario, the season would start back up in the fall, but nothing can be finalized or announced until a new contract is in place.
"We haven’t been asking for big changes to the contract," Newbrough said. "Some strategic changes have to be made so the dispute won’t rise again. We’re not trying to change the game with the musicians. We're trying to get them back on stage and allow the philharmonic to re-emerge in a reasonable way, considering the ongoing nature of the pandemic."