SQDC employees on strike: the Aylmer branch strike activities ruled illegal
A new twist has been added to the strike by employees of the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC), this time concerning a branch in the region. Following a recent decision by the Tribunal administratif du travail (TAT), the work stoppage called by employees of the SQDC's Aylmer branch on August 16 was deemed illegal. The employees of this branch did indeed attempt to join their colleagues at the SQDC branch in Gatineau (as well as the 26 other branches represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees CUPE-5454) in their strike activities, which have been ongoing since May 20, 2022. The SQDC employees are demanding a better salary, similar to that of their colleagues at the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ). The difference in salaries between the two state-owned companies at the time of hiring ($22.59 at the SAQ compared to $17.12 at the SQDC) as well as the salary scales have been highlighted by CUPE, which continues to hold demonstrations and picket lines in front of not only the striking SQDC branches, but also in front of the offices of politicians in several cities in Quebec.
Demonstrations were recently held in Montérégie, Drummondville and in front of the Montreal office of Premier François Legault. The latter was in the Outaouais region this summer and, according to the testimonies, while the Prime Minister apparently chose to avoid public effusions with the demonstrators, they nevertheless waited for him to arrive in Gatineau by displaying several banners along the politician's route. The banners carried many messages aimed at the Quebec government and its representatives, including the famous phrase uttered by the Prime Minister himself last May, in reference to inflation and the labour shortage: "Companies that are not able to pay wages higher than $15 or $20 an hour will have a hard time...". The employees of the 13 SQDC branches represented by the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (SQDC-CSN) resumed their work activities following an agreement in principle between the union and the SQDC last July.
It is a matter of certification and a delay in the granting of the right to strike that is at the origin of the conclusion of the Tribunal administratif du travail. Since the certification of the SQDC Aylmer branch came into effect on April 28, 2022, and CUPE-5454 failed to submit a notice to negotiate within the time limit provided for by law, the employees’ right to strike will be granted to union members on October 25, 2022. A formal notice was sent by the SQDC to CUPE-5454 on August 15, 2022, asking it not to strike at the Aylmer branch, which it did the next day. Between now and the fall, the employees of the Aylmer branch are therefore called upon "to return to work and to provide their normal work services as of today, until the date on which the right to strike is acquired, and to refrain from participating in any unlawful concerted activity aimed at slowing down operations," the TAT decision states. The SQDC welcomes the Tribunal's decision and mentions in a press release that it wishes to "maintain a healthy work climate inside its branches and employees will be welcomed back to work", referring to the Aylmer branch.
Photo caption: SQDC protesters at the arrival of the Prime Minister in the Outaouais, August 12, 2022
Photo credit: from CUPE-5454 Facebook page