B.C. cannabis workers look for pandemic pay ahead of provincial budget


The NDP government may be announcing its plans for British Columbia’s 2021 budget on the iconic 4-20, but it’s unclear if cannabis workers will get the supports they are hoping for as the pandemic rages on.

Earlier this month, B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union members who work in the liquor and cannabis distribution industry tallied outside Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s offices, calling for essential pay under the province’s Temporary Pandemic Pay legislation.

Liquor and cannabis retail store workers were deemed essential workers during the first height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have remained open to the public throughout the pandemic—with prevention measures like plexiglass barriers and mandatory masks. The warehouses have also remained fully operational to support increased demand from stores as well as pubs, bars and restaurants.

“Being deemed essential but not recognized as such is a blow to our pride – which I think all front line workers can say is vital, given the devastating impacts to our physical and mental health,” Erica Cardarelli, BCGEU steward, said in a statement last week.

Cannabis and liquor distribution workers began writing to Robinson this month, asking the minister to authorize the cannabis and liquor distribution branch to allocate 20 per cent of excess revenue generated during the last quarter of 2019-20 to be distributed as pandemic pay for employees.

On April 12, B.C.’s Throne Speech – which sets the tone for the provincial budget – made no indication that industry workers would receive essential pay from taxpayer coffers.

B.C.’s budget is set to be unveiled Tuesday, April 20.