The union representing employees of the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC), represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), called a general strike on Friday, May 20.
The union, which has 300 members, says the strike action follows the suspension of the union’s president and vice-president, as well as 75 employees.
According to a union press release, these people were suspended for wearing dresses and Bermuda shorts rather than the black pants and t-shirts required by the SQDC. The refusal to wear the SQDC uniform was a means of pressure to demand better wages and benefits, comparable to those of employees of the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), the Crown wine and spirits agency. .
Wage demands and better working conditions
SQDC members earn a starting wage of around $17 an hour, and the majority of employees don’t have full-time positions or job security.
Almost all (91%) of unionized employees voted in February 2022 to establish pressure tactics that could go as far as an indefinite general strike.
CUPE says it also wants to exercise its right to bargain for employees of new branches who have unionized.
“All we ask for are decent working conditions. Currently, we feel no respect from our employer and this is reflected in the mandates given to the management bargaining committee. In short, no, we will not be the ‘cheap labour’ of state corporations! said David Clément, president of Local 5454, last February.
A representative from the SQDC declined to comment on the negotiations, but pointed out that the strike actions are impacting 22 of the 89 SQDC sites in the province.
“The SQDC fully recognizes the right of employees to exercise pressure tactics in the context of current negotiations,” says Fabrice Giguère, communications advisor and spokesperson for the SQDC. “We cannot comment on ongoing negotiations as we want to discuss issues that need to be addressed at the bargaining table. Our goal is to reach a negotiated agreement to the satisfaction of all parties involved. »
“Furthermore, it should be mentioned that 22 stores are currently on strike out of the 89 stores we have across the network. We want these 22 stores to remain open in order to continue to serve our customers and fulfill our mandate of migrating consumers to the legal recreational cannabis market. »
The SQDC operates all retail cannabis stores in Quebec, with nearly 100 locations currently in operation. At the end of 2019, the workers had already reached a collective agreement with CUPE representatives around sick leave.