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More than 300 cannabis retail workers in Quebec go on strike

May 25, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

“Our patience has reached its limits.”

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Union members of the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC), represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), began a general strike on May 20.

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According to a CUPE press release, the strike is in response to the suspension of the union president, vice-president and 75 employees who wore dresses and Bermuda shorts rather than the black pants and sweater required by the SQDC.

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  2. People wait outside the SQDC store on Ste-Catherine St. on Wednesday October 30, 2019.

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Union members are calling for salaries and benefits similar to those working in other comparable state corporations, including the Quebec Liquor Corp. (SAQ).

“These SQDC workers barely earn $17/hour upon hiring and the majority have no full-time position or job security, which puts them in an untenable precarious position,” the CUPE release states.

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CUPE represents more than 300 SQDC union members who work in 26 branches across the province. The province-run SQDC operates nearly 100 locations across the province.

A spokesperson for the SQDC told MJBizDaily that the affected stores will operate with limited hours until the labour issues are resolved, adding that the agency plans “to keep serving our customers and fulfill our mandate of migrating consumers over to the legal recreational cannabis market.”

Last month, union members in 22 branches went on strike from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in response to the wage offered by the SQDC during collective agreement negotiations.

“We have been trying for months to negotiate decent working conditions worthy of a Crown corporation, but the SQDC chose, instead, to table a wage offer that would keep us in poverty. Our patience has reached its limits and if our employer does not come to their senses, the next few weeks will be hectic,” David Clément, president of CUPE 5454, said at the time.

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In February, union members voted 91 per cent in favour of initiating pressure tactics that could go as far as an indefinite general strike at the time deemed appropriate. The main demands were scheduling, wages, team leader positions and transfers between outlets.

“All we’re asking for are decent working conditions. At the present time, we don’t feel we’re getting any respect from our employer, which is reflected in the mandates given to the employer’s bargaining committee. In short, we won’t be a source of cheap labour for Crown corporations,” Clément said following that vote.

In 2019, CUPE joined forces with Fédération des employées et employés de services publics as SQDC workers approved a settlement agreement made by a special mediator named by Quebec labour minister Jean Boulet.

At the time, Marc Ranger, director of CUPE Quebec, said the unions wanted salaries comparable to government employees, like those at the SAQ, which reportedly start at $20.46 an hour.

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