Manitoba taking steps to mitigate strike’s impact on cannabis sales

| David Brown

Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries’ Cannabis Operations team says it has a plan in place to ensure a strike action from the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union does not impact cannabis producers’ ability to send products to suppliers and retailers in the province.

In a memo sent to cannabis producers on July 21, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries (MBLL) says that while it is “severely impacted” by the work stoppage from the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU), it has developed a contingency plan in advance to mitigate any industry concerns. 

The government regulator was informed on July 14 of the pending job action by the MGEU, which includes staff from Cannabis Operations. The union issued a one day walk out on July 19, which has now developed into a more long-term strike.

During the strike, the MBLL’s Cannabis Operations are required to operate with a skeleton staff, limiting the ability to process new purchase orders. As such, the agency will be pausing or delaying these activities:

  • Support resolving order discrepancies and resending packaging slips.
  • Issuing financial credits and refunds.
  • Tracking open purchase orders and providing status updates.
  • Providing Cannabis Customer Self Service troubleshooting support.
  • Password resets and account set-up support (for CCSS and MBLL Partners) will continue with some delays.
  • Limited to no product price changes or new product set-ups in the product catalogue.
  • Cannabis Tracking and Licensing System (CTLS) (seed-to-sale) reporting on behalf of Retailers Account administration (changes to supplier and retailer information).
  • The Cannabis Contact Centre, Cannabis PO, and Cannabis Buyers email accounts will be monitored for urgent matters, but responses will be limited or delayed.

Any suppliers dealing with a product list status change should still inform the MBLL, who will take action when they can.

If a supplier has a list status change (to a Pending/Terminated status), continue to advise MBLL, they will take action accordingly as time and resources permit.

The union has been striking to bring attention to their contract negotiations, shutting down several liquor stores, and the union says some workers will continue to strike on Thursday. The MGEU has over 1,400 Manitoba members and says they have been working under an expired contract since March last year.

Job actions in other provinces have caused challenges for producers and retailers. In 2022, British Columbia’s central distribution system was temporarily halted due to a government employee’s union strike. Strikes in Quebec have also temporarily closed or otherwise impacted some stores in the province.

While the MBLL does not run a warehouse for cannabis like other provincial governments, it does approve products and suppliers into the province. Producers can then ship directly to retailers, or go through private distribution systems.

Michael Gruber, the owner of Parrot Pot Shop, with two locations in Winnipeg and a third on the way, says his main concern is if sales are impacted. Customer loyalty is important in such a highly saturated market like Winnipeg. 

“Our main concern would be if we can’t service customers. That’s what really counts. If there are issues with purchase orders or credit notes, it can wait. As long as we can get product to our customers the rest can wait.”

Kerri Michell of Farmer Jane Cannabis, with five locations in Winnipeg, says she is optimistic that this will not negatively impact her business, as long as the strike doesn’t go on very long.

“MBLL has been really good with communicating so far and seem to care about the impact on the industry.”

Gord Nichol, the owner of North 40 Cannabis, a micro producer in Saskatchewan that sells into the Manitoba market, says he’s happy with how the MBLL is handling the issue.

“I’m glad to see them focusing on making sure that products are still flowing. We’ll get the returns fixed up, any overages or any issues, those can go on the back burner because that’s not going to affect anyone’s ability to do business. So it sounds to me like they’re focused on the right things.

Featured image via MGEU on Twitter