The strike marks the third of five walkout days voted on by union members June 5, and comes on the weekend of the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Montreal, when stores are particularly busy.
The only branch closed as of Saturday afternoon was in Quebec City’s Sainte-Foy neighbourhood, as managers handled services at the other dozen, the Crown corporation said in an email.
Maxime Nadeau, president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions, said the strike relates to stalled negotiations around wages. Employees’ starting rate is $17.12 an hour, climbing to $21.23 an hour after eight years on the job, he said.
“We have a ridiculous salary offer on the table, even insulting, so we obviously are asking for parity with the SAQ (Societe des alcools du Quebec),” he said in a phone interview.
Nadeau quoted Premier Francois Legault, who warned on June 12 that amid the ongoing labour shortage “companies that are not able to pay salaries higher than $15 or $20 (per hour) are going to have trouble.”
The union, which represents about 200 employees spread across 16 branches of the government-owned cannabis retailer, intentionally chose a weekend “when traffic is very high” to launch the labour action, Nadeau added in a release.
Known as the SQDC, Quebec’s cannabis corporation said in an email it “fully recognizes the right of employees to exercise pressure tactics in the context of the negotiations in progress.”
“The corporation remains available to continue negotiations and our wish is to reach a negotiated agreement to the satisfaction of the parties concerned.”
The SQDC, a subsidiary of the SAQ, is responsible for the distribution and sale of marijuana products in Quebec.