My last report on the Colón situation was published three weeks ago and it was called "Is the Colón´s sad decline deliberate?". Since then, though matters aren´t solved and there are major points to be cleared up, there have been some advances that allow me to mention in the title of this article that there´s light at the end of the tunnel. This has come about among gross contradictions between what the City Government´s "actors" have expressed, Mauricio Macri on TV calling "vandals" some employees and attacking judges that emitted unfavorable sentences, Colón Director Pedro Pablo García Caffi keeping adamantly to his confrontation line; but Minister of Culture Hernán Lombardi made some conciliatory statements, and Secretary of Human Resources Andrés Ibarra agreed to talk with Roberto Arrechea (labor union ATE´s Buenos Aires Secretary General) with the condition that rehearsals would be resumed; and they were.
As we go to press this much is confirmed: the Buenos Aires Philharmonic starts its season next Thursday and the ballet will offer next week a triple bill accompanied by the Colón Orchestra and two pianists. True, the Phil´s concert is a mere stopgap conducted by the Orchestra´s assistant conductor, Carlos Bertazza, replacing the originally announced Principal Conductor Arturo Diemecke, and with an utterly changed programme from an innovative and difficult combination of Mahler´s Sixth Symphony and a premiere by Michael Torke ("Rapture", with percussionist Ángel Frette) to a run-of-the-mill French late-Nineteenth Century mixture. But at least they are playing. And the ballet won´t have recorded tracks as accompaniment.
Previous to all that, however, the Government emitted still more ominous signs, perhaps as a strategy to demoralize the orchestras and force them to accept rehearsals. And the City´s functionaries again showed a disconcerting behavior. In February (this wasn´t publicly known at the time) they called a competition to cover vacant posts in the orchestras, a good thing in normal times but absurd in the middle of a conflict; at the very end of March they called the competition off. Also, they threatened to apply 50% discounts on the salaries of dissidents.
Coupled with this, also at the end of March they proceeded to advise 4l players that had been under contract last year both at the Phil and at the Colón Orchestra that their contracts wouldn´t be renovated, because the orchestras weren´t playing. However, after the first talk between Ibarra and Arrechea it transpired that they would be re-hired.
The Attorney General recommended the exoneration of the eight employees delegates of the labor union ATE that are the target of the $ 55 million trial, now pending appeal. This certainly makes negotiations more difficult, for Arrechea represents the opinion of the Colón Assembly, and they demand the following points: a) the suspension of any sanctions; b) the renovation of contracts; c) a salary raise of 40% compared to December; d) elimination of the discounts on salaries; e) reimbursement of salary days suspended because of strikes.
Some repercussions are worth mentioning: a) Sadem (Argentine Music Syndicate) considers García Caffi "persona no grata". b) The orchestras played the National Anthem at Vélez Sarsfield in the interval of a soccer game to dramatize their plight. c) The Phil sent a letter to García Caffi complaining that a security guard had been hostile and menacing to a member of the orchestra, and considering that they now feel watched as if they were delinquents. They write of "patovicas" and "police state" behavior. d) Various provincial orchestras have expressed their solidarity with the Colón orchestras. e) A Télam agency dispatch states that Lombardi wants García Caffi´s resignation. And also says that Ibarra promised "not to advance with sanctions"; but Ibarra can do nothing about the judicial and adminstrative instances against "the eight" or "the twenty-five" (for lesser sanctions have been asked against a larger group that includes those eight).
Tomorrow a new encounter between Arrechea and Ibarra will include the above points; it remains to be seen if they are resolved. The results of the talks will be analyzed in a new assembly. The main problem is Macri´s lapidary statements; Ibarra or Lombardi may be amenable to a settlement, García Caffi may be replaced or overruled, but if their chief puts his thumb down, the Colón will remain in trouble. And even if the Executive seems in the last instance conciliatory, there are still judicial and administrative rounds to be dealt with, and their timing may be too slow for comfort.