BC Tree Fruits Cooperative members narrowly defeated a motion to turf the co-op’s current board and management at a special general meeting in Peachland, November 22.
The special meeting, held just two weeks before the co-op’s regular annual general meeting on December 12, was triggered by members opposed the co-op’s decision to consolidate its packing lines in Oliver.
“A group of member growers petitioned the board for a special general meeting,” explains BCTF CEO Warren Sarafinchan. “There were 34 signatures on the petition, although only 22 were required.”
The meeting attracted 152 of the co-op’s 217 members. Only attendees had the right to vote, which was done electronically. Resolutions were those put forward in the request for the meeting.
“There was a request to remove certain changes we made to key parts of our governance procedures last year concerning the nominations committee and the independent directors,” says Sarafinchan. “There was a resolution to remove the entire board of directors as well as resolutions to put any of the planned investments and real estate transactions on hold.”
The motions required a two-thirds vote to pass. This did not happen, and all were defeated.
But the meeting made its point to the co-op, which has pledged to continue discussing its plans with growers.
“With the turn out we had, it shows that we need to be continuing to talk to our members,” says Sarafinchan. “Growers care deeply about the success of the cooperative and we need to be continuing to do all the right things with our communication.”
This has not always happened in the past, with many opponents of the decision to consolidate in Oliver saying that co-op’s board and management weren’t transparent about their plans.
“When we made the decision to go to the south, that comes after a number of years that the cooperative has been talking about investing in Kelowna at the Old Vernon Road property,” says Sarafinchan, who continues to defend the move. “What we have seen with the increase in construction costs, the increase in interest rates, we had to rethink where we made those investments.
Sarafinchan says the co-op is committed to a minimal impact for growers.
“We felt that investing in Oliver was best for the growers and best to move the business forward,” he says, dismissing rumours that growers will be charged for transport. “We already move fruit up and down the valley as part of our operations. The rumour that growers in the north will be saddled with a surcharge is not true.”