The casino isn’t the only Penticton business feeling the brunt of the strike action by BCGEU casino workers.
In what normally is a packed casino parking lot, the stalls, including those for the neighbouring B.C. VQA Wine Information Centre, sit mostly empty.
“Absolutely, definitely and I am horrified to say to you that yes, we have been impacted,” said Donna Faigaux, manager of the information centre. “I would say we are down 20-25 per cent in sales compared to last year. It has impacted us so much so that I had to cut shifts.”
Gateway casino workers are in their third week of strike action with more mediation negotiating sessions scheduled for July 20 to 22. Workers are asking for up to 60 per cent wage increases and significant increases in benefits. They walked out on June 29.
The wine information centre, situated next door to the Cascades Casino in Penticton, sells and promotes B.C. VQA wines and Faigaux said the summer months is when they make the “lion’s share” of their sales.
“At certain times there are more aggressive picketers and people choose not to deal with that and probably go other places. Some could be in support for the picketers and they don’t realize we are a separate entity which becomes a big problem for us,” said Faigaux.
The store is owned by a non-profit society. All retail profit, above operating costs, is returned to the community through wine industry related charitable donations and scholarships to viticulture programs at the Okanagan College. In 2014, the society donated $300,000 to the Centre of Excellence for the construction of a new Wine Sensory Lab that assists the college’s food, wine and tourism program.
“We also promote B.C. wines through different tastings. We have wineries that come in on Friday and Saturday’s for tastings and normally it is a good turnout because you get to meet the people behind the labels. We haven’t had the same turnout as in the past and I can’t think of anything else we have been doing different as far as promotion of it. I think some people that are getting stopped at the roundabout are intimidated by the striking workers. Then we have other workers who are on strike that have made it a point to let people know we are still open.”
Tastings take place from 1 to 4 p.m. This Friday, Laughing Stock Winery will be pouring and on Saturday, Enchante Wines. The wine info centre is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
“We really appreciate the support of those who are continuing to come in and purchase wines and attend our special events. Please continue to support us,” pleaded Faigaux.