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BCGEU contract squabble could lead to imported liquor supply shortage

Restaurant goers in BC might have fewer beer or wine choices the next time they dine out.

That’s because the hospitality industry, which includes pubs and restaurants may run out of imported liquor supplies if the strike by the General Employees Union keeps up.

Alliance of Beverage Licensees Executive Director, Jeff Guignard told Vista Radio the industry can ill afford a lengthy shut down of the four liquor distribution branches in Kamloops, Richmond, Delta, and Victoria.

“95% of BC’s hospitality industry doesn’t even have enough staff right now and they still have not recovered from all the debt they took on and the losses they incurred during the pandemic.”

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“This is the last thing we need,” mentioned Guignard.

He adds if the contract squabble continues between the province and BCGEU, the situation will only get worse.

“The longer this goes on though, the more serious the impacts will be for BC’s liquor industry in general. You’ll see shelves start to be depleted and you are going to see the favorite brands that you want to go in for will be shifted and some other products will be in place. You’ll still be able to get some products but maybe not the ones you want.”

“At the end of the day, we are going to see the impact on store shelves within a week or two and you’ll see the impact on restaurants probably by the end of the week.”

Guignard stated 40% of the alcohol they purchase for pubs, restaurants, and private liquor stores come through the liquor distribution centres that are on strike.

“It puts a chokehold on the supply of alcohol to the entire population of British Columbia. I think coming out of the pandemic, is unfair and that is irresponsible. What the BCGEU has done from this situation and this is our frustration is that whatever their dispute is they have now made this about the entire liquor distribution industry. By picketing outside of those warehouses, they are impacting 15 billion dollars of economic activity, thousands of small businesses, and the 200 thousand jobs for the people we employ. This is not our fight and we have nothing to do with this.”

“That is the core function of a private liquor store or a pub or restaurant. We are there to serve customers and if we don’t have the products to sell them that means we won’t be able to generate as much revenue, which also means we are going to have to shorten our hours and possibly lay off staff in some cases as well. I don’t know how all of that is going to proceed but we are hoping both sides can get to the table and work something out responsibly as this is impacting way more people. We just hope the adults in the room can tell everyone to stop fighting and come up with a fair deal.”

The union, which represents 33-thousand employees, says wages and inflation protection are its top concerns.

It’s rejected a government offer of almost 11 percent over three years, demanding a clause to cope with the rising cost of living.

Union officials say if the province doesn’t come back to the bargaining table with a better offer, the strike action will be escalated.

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