Société Québécoise du Cannabis employees will open the doors to the provincially run cannabis stores Wednesday as non-unionized workers.
Unlike their SAQ counter parts, SQDC workers will not be represented by a union.
An estimated 300 to 400 employees will be staffing the 15 to 20 stores spread across the province.
Many different Quebec unions are trying to get in on the action, representing the new crown corporation Confédérationdes Syndicats Nationaux Secretary General Jean Lortie said.
“Actual [SQDC] employees are calling organizations saying we want to be unionized,” Lortie said.
Two major unions CSN and Canadian Union of Public Employees,or CUPE are the front runners campaigning for the new contract.
Both unions presently represent workers at the SAQ.
Proper scheduling, fair hours and adequate working conditions are some issues both unions are advocating.
“Its like a Couche-Tard,” Lortie said. “You’re selling pot in a Couche-Tard.”
“This is not a good signal. You’re a crown corporation; you want to be socializing the issue of marijuana.”
Salary is the biggest issue for unions. According to CUPE economist Pierre-Guy Sylvestre, $14.00 an hour is not enough.
“They will need between $21 and $35,” Sylvestre said. “That is what we have in our other state-run corporations.”
Sylvestre says their role is large in the new reality of legal cannabis and they should be paid as such.
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“Its a social mission,” Sylvestre said. “They want to integrate the consumers of the illegal market into the legal market, so you need specialists to do that and you need good wages.”
Lortie says higher wages like at the SAQ will cost less in terms of worker turnaround.
It is also a way to make employees less vulnerable to outside pressure.
Fifty per cent plus one of the SQDC members will have to agree to being unionized. Only then can a request at the Quebec labour board be tabled and a demand for a unionization certificate be made.
Both unions say they believe the workers at Quebec’s cannabis stores will have official status at some point. As for when, like many questions surrounding the legalization of marijuana, that remains uncertain.