Unionized workers at one of three branches of the Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC) on the Island of Montreal have voted for a strike mandate, saying they want better wages, paid holidays, and bonuses.
Workers at the Quebec Crown corporation are paid in a manner commensurate with other employees in the retail industry, and so earn $14 per hour, just above the provincial minimum wage of $12.50. However, because they are provincial employees, workers are also enrolled in a retirement program and receive social services available to other employees of the Crown.
The 21 unionized workers at the Rosemont-Petite Patrie SQDC location say that because they require specialized training (Quebec’s 20-hour course is five times longer than Ontario’s) and are tasked with determining whether customers are impaired, they should be paid more handsomely than other retail workers.
Antonio Filato, president at United Food and Commercial Workers Quebec, noted that the salaries of SQDC executives are on par with salaries of SAQ directors and other Crown corporations.
“For leaders,” Filato said, “their salaries are comparable to other Crown corporations, but for workers, their salaries are comparable to other domains,” like the low-wage retail sector.
The SQDC was developed as an offshoot of Crown wine and spirits agency the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), whose union fought strenuously against the SQDC being separated into its own agency. At the time, representatives of the Syndicat des employé-es de magasin et de bureau de la SAQ (SEMB) called the decision to split the SQDC from the SAQ “a form of union-busting.”
“The only justification we can find, is that this is a tactic to avoid that employees (of the SQC) would have better working conditions,” interim SEMB president Katia Lelièvre said in April of last year. “If you take people who are not unionized from the start, they have to start at zero.”
SAQ employees earn $20.46 per hour; Filato said he hoped the SQDC’s workers can get their hourly wages up to $18.
Representatives of the SQDC told La Presse Canadienne they respected the right of employees to engage in pressure tactics enshrined in the Labour Code.