Tuesday,  November 29, 2022  2:02 pm

“This is not correct”: Ensemble sets record straight with former members seeking unpaid incentives

“This is not correct”: Ensemble sets record straight with former members seeking unpaid incentives
Michael Johnson, president of Ensemble. (File photo)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Ensemble has responded to an open letter from a group of former members who say they are owed incentive payments from 2019.

In a Nov. 10 letter addressed to leaders Michael Johnson, David Harris and Jeff Wilner, nine retail travel groups say they were in good standing with Ensemble in 2019 – before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and before Ensemble was acquired by the Navigatr Group in June 2022 – and therefore deserve their cut of that year’s production.

The group writes that some 50 to 70 other travel companies are also seeking to collect unpaid incentives and note that “several” agencies did not want to sign the open letter for fear of retribution.

“While each of us have since left Ensemble following the non-payment, our status at the time entitles us to be paid,” the group writes. 

They argue that Ensemble’s financial position has now been solidified by a robust COVID recovery and the acquisition by Navigatr.

But Michael Johnson, president of Ensemble, says these allegations of overdue payments are “entirely without merit.”

“While we will not litigate these claims and false narratives through the media, extensive legal review and advice were provided by our legal teams to ensure compliance with all applicable law during the execution of the acquisition,” Johnson told PAX in a statement last week.

In a follow-up statement entitled “Setting The Record Straight” sent to PAX on Tuesday (Nov. 15), Johnson further clarified the situation.

His open letter reads as follows:

In light of the recent allegations made by former members of Ensemble that have been published in several trade industry publications, it has become imperative that we set the record straight.

At the heart of their dispute is the claim that they are owed patronage payments from 2019. This is not correct. In Spring 2020 – just as the pandemic was taking hold, Ensemble paid 50% of the 2019 patronage payments and thereafter prudently advised members of its intention to pay the other half if and when funding for 12 months of liquidity was secured. Despite every reasonable effort, the funding support was not secured.

Under the bylaws that governed Ensemble until it was acquired by Navigatr Group in June 2022, only members in good standing were eligible to receive patronage payments. Agencies who chose to exit during COVID knew that they were no longer eligible for patronage. The former agencies making these claims left Ensemble on their own accord during the pandemic and were therefore not entitled to any further payments the moment they left Ensemble.

It has become clear that despite knowing this to be true, they have elected to use the media to make false and disparaging accusations in an attempt to secure payments that they are not otherwise entitled to receive.

While we can’t change what happened as a result of this once-in-a-generation crisis, a signing bonus was offered to every member who elected to sign on with the new Ensemble – which was nearly 95% - and agreed to try the ADX booking platform, from which members are already seeing the benefit with higher commissions and increased sales.

Despite all that has transpired, the offer to join Ensemble, try ADX and receive a signing bonus remains open, including to former Ensemble members, as we are fully committed to helping everyone recover from the pandemic and achieve the highest profitability possible for their businesses.

We are proud of the new Ensemble and its renewed support for member agencies and travel professionals. We will continue to exceed the expectations of our members with our focus and investment on substantially improving the profits of our member agents. 

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