BCGEU calls for unionized workers in private stores

…if the government is determined to bring liquor sales into grocery stores…(they) should be staffed by B.C. liquor store employees.

To the editor:

Big changes have come to B.C. liquor stores. The changes are long overdue.

On Good Friday, about 120 of B.C.’s public liquor stores were open on a statutory holiday for the first time. Other changes were also introduced this month—shopping hours have been extended, more than 130 stores will be open on Sundays and eventually many more public stores will be offering refrigerated products.

Our union (BCGEU) has lobbied government for these changes and we welcome them. This is an important modernization of the B.C. liquor store system in keeping with modern, responsible attitudes around drinking.

Public liquor stores should remain central to this ongoing modernization. They have a long tradition of better pricing, better selection, knowledgeable staff and social responsibility. The public distribution and retailing of alcohol also produces important public revenue, the majority of which is generated in the public stores. At the same time, B.C. liquor stores provide good jobs all across our province.

The Liquor Distribution Branch has also introduced a new wholesale pricing model. We have been assured by LDB management that public store prices will remain largely unchanged. However, there is still uncertainty around the new pricing system.

While we welcome the modernization of the retailing operations, our union will be paying close attention as it rolls out. This new pricing system must allow public liquor stores to remain competitive. At the same time, the pricing system should ensure that public liquor store jobs remain stable and secure. In this difficult economy, these jobs need to be protected.

Public liquor store salaries are often grossly exaggerated by our opponents. Let’s set the record straight. While some of our experienced, full-time members make in the region of $20 an hour, many of the store workers you see, especially in the busy summer months and December, earn about $15 an hour. Across all Liquor Distribution Branch operations, including retail as well as LDB headquarters and warehouses, the average annual salary is about $42,000. These are good wages, but they certainly are not lavish wages.

We will also be looking to see if the new pricing model protects public revenues generated through liquor distribution and retailing. These revenues pay for services on which we all rely, so we also need to increase these revenues in a socially responsible way.

There is also uncertainty around the provincial government’s decision to allow the sale of alcohol in grocery stores. Many public stores are already located near existing grocery stores. These public liquor stores will now be open seven days a week and on holidays, just like nearby grocery stores.

Our union does not see the need for grocery store liquor sales. However, if the government is determined to bring liquor sales into grocery stores, we believe these “stores within a store” should be staffed by experienced B.C. liquor store employees. Our members have a record of responsible retailing, including checking identification to prevent sales to underage drinkers, fundraising for important causes and our members are a key part of the annual Dry Grad campaign.

The provincial government believes these new regulations and pricing system will level the playing field between private and public liquor sales. Another change needs to be implemented to truly level the playing field. Private liquor stores can advertise and most of us have seen a flyer from a local private liquor store.  Public liquor stores are prevented from advertising. Advertising is key part of successful, modern retailing. Preventing the public stores from advertising makes about as much sense as closing on Sundays. The advertising prohibition belongs to an earlier age with different attitudes, and should be lifted.

B.C. has been well served by our public liquor distribution and retailing system for generations. It deserves to be a central part of the system in the future.

Stephanie Smith, president,

BC Government Employees Union

 

Just Posted

Missing Kelowna woman, Cassy Miller found dead

Miller went missing Nov. 6 and was found 10 days later

Three UBC Okanagan students awarded women in tech scholarships

Computer science and math students hope the award will inspire others

Kelowna’s definitive Christmas market list

We’ve prepared a list of every market in the Central Okanagan

Your guide to winter light ups around the Okanagan

From Vernon to Summerland, with a stop in Kelowna, we’ve found some activities for you to enjoy

Rockets break four game losing streak in Edmonton

The Rockets defeated the Oil Kings 3-1

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

South region forestry workers nearly in legal strike position

Talks broke down between USW and IFLRA, resulting in booking out of provincial mediator

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

B.C. VIEWS: Setting speed limits in a post-fact political environment

Media prefer ‘speed kills’ narrative, even when it fails to appear

Controversy erupts over Japanese flag in B.C. classroom

Online petition demanding removal has collected more than 5,700 signatures

Death toll rises to 76 in California fire with winds ahead

Nearly 1,300 people remain unaccounted for more than a week after the fire began

Most Read