Picket lines aren’t coming down at the Naramata Centre, at least not any time in the near future.
Last week, the Naramata Centre Society announced they would be closing the centre after failing to come up with a plan that ensured a sustainable future for the 68-year-old facility. A labour dispute with the centre’s 30 workers has already kept the doors closed since May 2014.
But after visiting the striking workers last week, Paul Faoro, secretary-treasurer for CUPE B.C. said the picket line is staying up until there is a closure on the current negotiations.
“Just sending a letter saying we are closing down the facility doesn’t negate the responsibility to resolve collective bargaining,” said Faoro.
Gerry Anderson, spokesperson for the Centre’s board of directors, said the labour dispute was only one of the hurdles facing the centre. The society conducted a successful fundraising campaign in late 2014, but Anderson said that just gave the board time to review their situation, rather than closing earlier.
“Unfortunately after that review, we realized there was too many hurdles and too many locked gates we didn’t have the key to,” he said. The labour dispute, he added, was only a symptom of bigger issues, in terms of maintaining the Centre’s infrastructure and remaining competitive with similar operations.
CUPE negotiators have been trying to bring the United Church of Canada to the bargaining table, and Faoro said they are now reaching out to Gary Paterson, the national head of the United Church.
Naramata Centre was founded by the United Church in 1947 as a conference and educational facility. Anderson said the Centre is now owned by the society, but maintains a relationship with the United Church, including a loan from the B.C. Conference, secured with Centre lands.
“It is unclear who has control over the lands. We are taking the position that the United Church has a role in resolving this dispute,” said Faoro, adding that Paterson and the church not only have a legal responsibility to help resolve the situation, but also a moral one.
“We are wanting the United Church. It is time for them to come to table,” said Faoro.
Should the centre close and be sold for a similar purpose, Faoro said the CUPE local has successorship rights, and any new operators will have to come to an agreement with the union.