As the harvest begins across Quebec, some winegrowers are struggling to find staff to pick their grapes. A situation that worries many.
“We have fewer foreign workers and the people here don't want to work. Some are supposed to come and not show up, so we work in slow motion and worry that we won't be able to pick it up. All because of the PCU [Canadian emergency benefit] ”, plague Anthony Carone, owner of Vignoble Carone, located in Lanoraie, in Lanaudière.
However, the season was exceptional for the grapes, without too much humidity or disease. “It will perhaps be the best vintage in 100 years and we risk losing it, it's a shame,” adds Anthony Carone.
Employees are also urgently needed at Vignoble Rivière du Chêne, in Saint-Eustache, in the Lower Laurentians. “On weekends, we invite families to come and harvest in exchange for a dinner and a tasting, and during the week we look for salaried employees. We still have at least three weeks to pick up, ”explains Josée Villeneuve, human resources manager within the company.
Convincing workers certainly seems more difficult this year, she said. “PKU comes into play, that's for sure. People ask us if they can do only two days, if we can pay them other than in cash, but we will not start to do that. ”
On September 12, 100 people were to come and harvest and only 50 showed up, says Josée Villeneuve. “We had to assign employees to picking, when they should normally have done something else. When the grapes are ripe, you have to pick! ”
In Estrie, at the Le Cep d'Argent vineyard in Magog, owner Jean-Paul Scieur is also struggling to recruit employees to pick his grapes. “It is surely because of PKU, and also people's fears about contagion, but yet we are able to respect the distances in the vineyard.”
In past years, the Le Cep d'Argent vineyard offered schools and groups of cadets the opportunity to come and harvest as a fundraising activity. This year, that is not a solution. “In the COVID context, it's more complicated,” says Jean-Paul Scieur, who still hopes to succeed in harvesting everything. “Having started earlier, we will be able to stretch that. There is no other solution, we will do the best we can! ”