British Columbia

B.C. Liquor Stores now limiting purchases as strike hits shipments

Customers shopping at B.C. Liquor Stores will only be able to buy a certain amount of alcohol as of opening hours on Friday, as the government limits sales because of an ongoing strike at liquor distribution centres.

Group advocating for bars, pubs describes restrictions as 'insane'

A B.C. Liquor Store location is seen in Vancouver on June 14, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Customers at B.C. Liquor Stores will only be able to buy a certain amount of the same item as of Friday, as the government limits sales because of an ongoing strike at distribution centres.

A statement from the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) said customers will be able to buy no more than three of any individual item each day, based on barcode. For example, someone could buy three bottles one wine and three bottles of another, but not six of the same.

The restriction applies to all products, except beer.

The new rule affects individual customers as well as businesses like restaurants, pubs and bars.

"This is insane ... This needs to stop before it gets worse. We urge both sides to get back to the negotiation table immediately before this strike does further damage to B.C.'s economy," said Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE).

Employees with the B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU) targeted liquor distribution centres when they started striking on Monday. Government liquor stores get shipments from the centres, so the strike will affect the chain's ability to keep shelves stocked as usual if it continues long term.

The LDB said the "modest" limitations are meant to ensure there is enough liquor to go around "for as many customers as possible."

The purchase limit will continue until the centres get back to normal operations.

Private liquor stores are unaffected.

In a statement, Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said the LDB decision was "to support equity for everyone affected" in the strike.

"Not everyone has the same capacity to make large purchases and we don't want customers being at a disadvantage," he said. "I encourage everyone to respect the purchase limits implemented to support equity and I encourage customers and workers to be kind to one another during the job action.

"Our government remains committed to the collective bargaining process and to reaching a fair and reasonable agreement with the BCGEU."

Strike action

BCGEU picket lines went up Monday outside distribution centres in Delta, Richmond and Kamloops, as well as the wholesale customer centre in Victoria.

Union president Stephanie Smith said the union targeted the liquor industry because it hits the province in the wallet, but avoids disrupting "highly essential" services.

B.C.'s liquor and cannabis industries contribute $1.2 billion in direct revenue for the province, according to ABLE.

The union is asking the government for a cost of living adjustment (COLA) in the new collective agreement for its public service members, which means future pay raises would be tied to inflation. As the inflation rate spikes to historic levels in Canada, the BCGEU says workers are struggling to make ends meet.

"The government could end the strike at any time by offering public service workers a meaningful COLA," they said in a statement.

There have been sporadic contract talks between the BCGEU and province since April 6, but the union rejected an invitation from the agency for another meeting last week, saying it would "not be fruitful."

The union is the province's largest public sector union, representing 33,000 employees in B.C. liquor and cannabis stores and warehouses, along with wildfire fighters, social workers, sheriffs and correctional officers.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition, Meera Bains, and The Canadian Press

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