BC Labour Board agrees Cascadia Liquor illegally replaced workers during strike: Union

BC Labour Board agrees Cascadia Liquor illegally replaced workers during strike: Union
A strike is pictured outside the Cascadia Liquor store in Quadra Village on May 4, 2024.

The BC Labour Board has determined that Cascadia Liquor illegally replaced workers while union members are on strike at three locations, according to SEIU Local 2.

Union workers started striking at three stores in Quadra Village, Eagle Creek and Colwood on May 4.

Workers are largely calling for higher wages, citing the high cost of living in Greater Victoria.

“The reason we’re fighting is because my workers don’t have enough to live,” said Oscar Towert with the union, when the strike first began.

At the time, Cascadia Liquor said it was “committed to working with the SEIU to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement” and that it had previously offered to submit the two groups’ issues to an independent arbitrator, but that the union had rejected that offer.

READ PREVIOUS: Strike begins at 3 Cascadia liquor stores on Vancouver Island

Since then, all 12 Cascadia Liquor stores on Vancouver Island have remained open, but SEIU Local 2 says the three locations affected by the strikes have kept their doors open illegally.

On May 21, the union submitted a complaint to the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) saying that Cascadia had breached the labour code by using replacement workers during legal job action.

This week, SEIU Local 2 says the LRB agreed with the complaint, and determined that Cascadia was improperly using managers and head office employees to do work that the striking workers would normally do.

“Every day we’ve been out here, we’ve seen these replacement workers doing our jobs to help the company stay profitable while we continue to fight for fairness just metres away,” said Joey Olynyk, a striking worker at the Eagle Creek location in a release Wednesday.

“We’ll be watching closely to make sure Cascadia abides by the board’s decision and finally comes back to the bargaining table with a serious offer that makes sense.”

Cascadia responds

Cascadia Liquor says its use of existing managers and head office employees to fill the roles of striking workers amounted to “very discrete” infractions under the BC Labour Code, and that the LRB dismissed other complaints that the union had made.

The company stressed that it did not hire any new “replacement workers” and that it only redeployed existing employees.

“All of the company’s actions were undertaken in service of meeting the needs of Cascadia’s customers and none of the minor infractions were deliberate, malicious or ill-intended,” said the company in a statement to CHEK News on Thursday.

Cascadia says it’s waiting to see the LRB’s more detailed reasons for its decision and will abide by any direction given by the labour board.

“We continue to respect our employees’ right to strike and engage in lawful picketing activities,” said Cascadia.

“The company also has a right to continue to run its business. We are doing our best to remain open and service our customers during the strike, while remaining in compliance with the code.”

Cascadia says that on May 30, it also submitted a proposal for a collective agreement to the union, but the union rejected the offer and refused to take it to a vote.

The next day, Cascadia says it issued a bulletin to all its employees who are on strike that included a copy of the proposal, which the company says the union felt was unlawful “because it amounts to an attempt to negotiate directly with employees.”

The company says it disagrees and that it “merely provided an update concerning the status of negotiations and the company’s position.”

“We continue to remain committed to working with the SEIU to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that works to meet the needs of all our team members, while affording us the opportunity to continue to meet the needs of our customers,” said Cascadia.

All 12 Cascadia locations remain open, as well as its online shops.

On Thursday afternoon, SEIU Local 2 announced that staff at a fourth SEIU Local 2 location voted to join the union, inspired by recent strikes.

“For quite possibly the first time in the private sector, workers have applied to unionize amidst an ongoing strike action,” said the union in a release Thursday.

While the strikes are underway at three locations, union workers are asking residents to boycott all Cascadia Liquor locations, as well as businesses owned by the Truffles Group, which includes Cascadia Liquor, Butterfly Gardens, Truffles Catering, Habitat Catering, and three Flight Cannabis locations.

CHEK News has reached out to the LRB for further details.

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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