Strike could impact BC LDB, BC Cannabis Stores

| Staff

The union that represents nearly 33,000 staff in BC’s Public Service Agency—including the BC LDB and BC Cannabis Stores—issued a 72-hour strike notice to the government on Friday.

In a notice posted on their website, the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) says they will be in a “legal strike position” on Monday, August 15 starting at 2:46 p.m. 

The BC LDB has emailed licensed cannabis producers and retailers in the province to inform them of the action and to assure these stakeholders that the provincial distributor will be taking steps to minimize any impact on their business activities. 

“The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) recognizes this news may be concerning for your members,” stated a message posted online by the LDB. “Bargaining is a dynamic process, and while we do not know the extent of any possible job action, the LDB will continue to take steps to minimize the immediate impacts to customers and industry partners. This includes continuing to maintain regular operations and customer service levels over the next 72 hours.”

All cannabis sold in British Columbia is overseen by the LDB and routed through the provincial warehouse in Richmond. The BC LDB is also scheduled to launch a new “Direct Delivery” program for cannabis on Monday, August 15 that will allow some producers to ship their product directly to private cannabis stores, bypassing the government warehouse. 

There are also more than 30 province-run BC Cannabis Stores that could be impacted by these actions. BC is also home to more than 400 privately run cannabis stores.

The strike is over the most recent collective agreement between the union and the Public Service Agency (PSA), which expired on April 1, 2022. Negotiations for a new collective agreement started on February 8 but stalled on April 6, and union members voted 95% in favour of job action on June 22. The parties met again in July, but talks quickly broke down.

“Our members have been crystal clear since day one that their priority this round of bargaining was cost of living protection for their wages,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president and chair of the union’s public service bargaining committee in a press release. “The bottom line is they’re not asking for anything that MLAs don’t already have. The strike vote in June and issuing strike notice today is a message to government that our members are serious.”

Quebec’s government-run cannabis stores, the SQDC, have faced union actions this year as well, with store closures and picketing seeking to address wage concerns. In June, union members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) voted to accept an agreement with the SQDC for increased wages, hours, and working conditions.

Another union representing SQDC employees, CUPE, also initiated a strike action earlier this year.