Bookings cancelled at Naramata Centre through August

No negotiations scheduled between union and management at the centre, which may never reopen

Two more months of bookings have been cancelled at the Centre at Naramata as the labour dispute there stretches into its sixth week.

“It’s huge for us, it’s huge for the community, it’s huge for the program participants who were planning to be here,” said Jim Simpson, the centre’s director of development and strategic partnerships.

He estimated the cancellations of all events through August will see the centre lose out on up to 9,000 person-nights at its facilities and $700,000 in revenue.

“We are still hopeful to get a resolution so we can get back to doing our programs, but the longer this goes on, it does call into question the viability of the centre,” Simpson said.

The centre closed its doors in May when 30 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees went on strike after rejecting their employers’ last contract offer, which included a provision to contract out six positions in a bid to reduce costs.

Simpson said no further negotiations have been scheduled, but is “hopeful” talks will recommence soon.

CUPE spokesman Tom O’Leary said his team planned to make a formal request this week to have the centre’s board of directors negotiate directly with the union.

“They are the people who hired the two managers who have been in charge the last five years,” he said. “We can’t come to a solution at the bargaining table unless the powers that be sit there also and come to the table with all of the facts and figures and be transparent about the whole agenda.”

O’Leary acknowledged that a lengthy closure of the centre increases the likelihood it will shut its doors forever, but noted it would have essentially the same effect as contracting out workers’ jobs.

“In that case, what really is there to lose at this point?” he said.

“We are still seeking a positive resolution that allows for the long-term workers to continue to enjoy and contribute to the centre.

“It’s good jobs for the town of Naramata and it’s something that can be accomplished, but there has to be a will on the other side for it to happen though.”

A consultant hired last year to help put the centre on a better financial footing proposed contracting out six food and beverage positions as one of four options for a turnaround. Others options include closing the facility for good.

The centre, which is aligned with the United Church of Canada, hosts a range of conferences and workshops and offers on-site accommodation.