The Administrative Labor Tribunal (TAT) has issued an order declaring a recent strike at the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC)’s Aylmer retail location illegal.
The SQDC posted an announcement based on the Tribunal’s decision on Saturday, August 27. The job action against the Aylmer branch began on August 16, 2022.
The TAT (Tribunal administratif du travail in Quebec) says the job action was illegal because it violated the Labour Code. The SQDC says it “recognized the right to strike” but argues that “CUPE 5454 did not send the employer a notice to bargain that complies with the requirements of the Labor Code for this accreditation, the right to strike will not be acquired until October 25, 2022.”
CUPE 5454 is one of the unions that has been representing employees of some province-run SQDC cannabis stores. The union called a general strike in May of this year in response to the suspension of the president and vice-president of the union, along with 75 employees.
The SQDC says they sent a formal notice to Local 5454 on August 15, ordering it to refrain from launching an illegal strike. The union called an indefinite general strike the following morning.
The Tribunal’s decision says that the employees of the Aylmer branch should “return to work and perform their normal work duties as of today, until the date of acquisition of the right to strike and to refrain from participating in any illegal concerted activity aimed at slowing down activities”.
On August 24, CUPE 5454 members of the SQDC demonstrated in front of the Montreal office of the Prime Minister, François Legault. The union was calling attention to the starting wage of $17 an hour for SQDC, calling for better working conditions and wages for their 300 members currently employed in 27 SQDC branches.
The union notes that the SQDC is a profitable and growing company that earned a net profit of more than $66 million in the most recent fiscal year.
According to the SQDC there are currently 90 SQDC retail stores, about half of which are not unionized. The current labour dispute affects only 22 of the 28 branches represented by CUPE. The employees of these branches have been on strike since May 30. Two of the 28 CUPE branches, St-Nicolas and Alma, have opted not to go on strike.
All branches, including those facing job actions, are still currently operating, but often with reduced hours.
Radio Canada shared a comment from David Clément, president of the union of SQDC employees, who says the union may be seeking to challenge the ruling and accused the province of engaging in bad faith tactics.
The SQDC says it still hopes to reach a negotiated agreement to the satisfaction of all parties, and it is available to sit down at the negotiating table at any time. The government agency reached an agreement in June with the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) who voted to accept an agreement with the SQDC for increased wages, hours, and working conditions.
Employees represented by the CSN were able to secure salary increases of 16-34% over a four-year agreement. For employees at the high end of the salary scale, their salaries will increase from $19.92 per hour to more than $23 at the end of the agreement.
Those employees will also now be able to reach the highest salary scale in three and a half years, rather than eight under their old agreement. Full-time employees are also now guaranteed two more hours per week, and team leader bonuses of 10% to 15% will also be awarded.
Featured image via CUPE