British Columbia cannabis stores close and lay off staff as pressure measures prevent pot deliveries | Radio-Canada News

Some of BC’s cannabis stores say they are closing and laying off staff after a public sector labor dispute prevented the province’s pot distribution center from shipping products from the beginning of last week.

Private stores, which must buy their stock from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB), say they are running out of supplies and have no choice but to temporarily close and lay off employees.

Mood Cannabis Co. general manager Cory Waldron had to lay off 17 workers — 90% of the staff — at his two Nanaimo stores on Thursday because they weren’t getting deliveries from the BCLDB.

“There have been a lot of tears. We’ve had a lot of our staff with us since our opening day in 2020, so it’s really sad,” he said.

“Some of these people won’t be able to come back because they can’t wait for employment insurance, so they have to find other jobs.”

Waldron said he knows of at least 40 stores that have already closed and believes that number could double by the end of Friday.

Supplies began to dwindle after the British Columbia General Employees Union, which represents about 33,000 public service workers in the province and is fighting for better wages, set up picket lines on 15 august.

Retail liquor and cannabis stores aren’t part of the action, but the Burnaby Customer Service Center’s cannabis division is.

The union resumed negotiations earlier this week, but a settlement has yet to be reached.

The union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

BCGEU spokeswoman Jasleen Arora declined to discuss the matter.

If the strike continues, 70 per cent of legal cannabis retailers in the province will be closed by August 30, estimates Jaclynn Pehota, executive director of the Retail Cannabis Council of BC.

It is likely that 30% of them will not reopen once the action is resolved, she added in an email.

His organization has urged the province to declare cannabis delivery an essential service or allow pot stores to purchase inventory from outside the province during the labor action.

“Without immediate action, significant and irreparable harm will be done to the legal cannabis sector in British Columbia,” read a letter the organization encouraged stores to send to Premier John Horgan on Thursday.

“If these businesses are not offered immediate financial assistance to secure their payrolls and pay the highest costs, many of these businesses will permanently close and BC will permanently lose market share to the black market. “

Waldron has previously heard of illicit salespeople going into private stores and handing out business cards to customers they think they can attract during the trade action.

He fears it will be difficult for some stores to win back those customers when deliveries return.

Cassandra Wardrop, head of operations at Flora Cannabis, has similar concerns because many of the brand’s stores are located within easy driving distance of indigenous retailers, whose supply is not impacted.

“If that’s what they think is good for them and they have a better experience there, then absolutely there’s a chance we won’t get (those customers) back,” she said. declared.

Flora, which has six sites, has already had to temporarily lay off 30 people due to lack of supply.

Stores will continue to operate with managers managing them, but hours will be reduced and even then some stores only have a week or less of stock remaining, Wardrop said.

For the good of the company and the customers, she hopes that deliveries will resume soon.

“Denying British Columbians access to legal substances like cannabis and alcohol has a negative impact on British Columbians, and I hope the strike ends or turns into another type of strike.”

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