The union representing employees at 24 SQDC cannabis stores in Quebec have voted in favour of giving themselves the ability to strike.
The main demands from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) relate to issues such as employee hours, wages, team leader positions, and employee transfers between branches.
The union’s vote to give themselves the mandate to “initiate pressure tactics that could go as far as an unlimited general strike, when deemed appropriate” was held during a special general meeting on February 20.
CUPE says it is also seeking to exercise its right to negotiate 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 negotiating committee. In short, no, we will not be the ‘cheap labour’ of state corporations!” says David Clément, president of Local 5454.
The SQDC is Société Québécoise du Cannabis, operating all retail cannabis stores in the province, with around
100 locations currently in operation. When the stores first opened in late 2018, no employees were unionized, but a few weeks later CUPE was already representing SQDC employees, with a focus on raising wages above $14 an hour. By mid-2019 some employees were threatening to strike for higher wages.
Employees in some stores had also agreed to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW). In late 2019, workers reached a collective agreement settlement with CUPE representatives around sick days.
Although CUPE says they want to avoid strike action, they are prepared to take it if necessary.
“We are going to give mediation a chance by showing that we are in good faith, despite the closed attitude and the contemptuous remarks of our counterparts at the negotiation table,” added Clément. “However, we will in no way accept that the employer tries to create disparities in treatment between the branches. Our mandate is clear, we will negotiate for our 24 branches at the same time, the same collective agreement.”
Retail employees at some privately run retail cannabis locations in BC have also unionized. In 2021, The Ontario Cannabis Store ended a contract with the province’s first cannabis-related union.