Men wearing shortsThe working atmosphere at the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) has just deteriorated further following last Friday’s suspension of the president and the vice-president of the union representing SQDC employees (CUPE 5454) for an indeterminate period to allow for an investigation.

For about two months, these CUPE members, who provide advice to 26 outlets across Quebec, have been resorting to pressure tactics by no longer wearing the black work clothes demanded by the SQDC.

This pressure tactic, which is primarily symbolic, appears to have raised the ire of SQDC managers to the point that last Saturday and Sunday, the SQDC suspended more than 75 employees on the spot due to the fact they were wearing dresses and Bermuda shorts.

Over these two days, the SQDC sent home every employee in more than fifteen outlets, leaving managers to step in and do the work. In the Quebec City region, the SQDC went ahead and shut down one of the outlets.

“It`s really incredible to think the SQDC would go so far as to suspend every employee at some outlets, as if there was an emergency of some kind. Disrupting customer service just because they refused to wear the clothing provided by the employer is unjustifiable,” said CUPE union representative Daniel Morin.

CUPE members working in SQDC outlets have seeking decent working conditions, but the employer refused to pay them wages and benefits similar to those offered in other comparable Crown corporations.

“We want to negotiate acceptable wages for our members, given the current job precarity, labour shortages and inflation that have hit low-wage earners hard. We will not stand for employer reprisals against the members and representatives of our union. These actions will not discourage us. We’ll challenge all of these measures, intimidation tactics and the disguised lockout before the courts,” declared Patrick Gloutney, president of CUPE Quebec.

SQDC employees only earn $17 per hour when they are hired, and most do not have a full-time position. They refuse to be the poor relations of the Crown corporations. The union has a general strike mandate in hand and will use it when it feels the time is right.

“Members of our union are mobilized and determined to continue the struggle that has gone on now for more than six months. This sweeping repression by SQDC doesn’t scare us, and we as a group will stand our ground to defend our right to express our dissatisfaction and to bring the employer to its senses. All SQDC has to do is bargain seriously!” said David Clément, president of CUPE 5454.