Liquor distributors hit the streets for a day

Impending privatization of alcohol distribution behind one-day walkout

Employees of the liquor distribution warehouse on Government Street walk a picket line Tuesday morning. Shown are Gavin Nye

Workers at Victoria’s liquor distribution centre drew attention to an otherwise unremarkable warehouse on Government Street Tuesday.

Picketing along Government Street, they wore signs reading BCGEU on strike.

The purpose of the one-day strike was in part to oppose the provincial government’s proposal to privatize distribution of alcohol.

While the 18 workers at the Victoria plant would be protected, the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union opposes the sale of this public asset.

Liquor distribution is a major source of revenue for the province, said Paul Finch, BCGEU vice-president. Additionally, he argued the cost of the service would rise if it were privatized.

The government’s request for proposals for a new service delivery model closed June 29. It aims to announce the winning proponent in March 2013.

“The purpose of the competitive RFP process is to seek a private-sector service provider that can operate a liquor distribution system that is more efficient than the current one,” reads a statement on the Liquor Distribution Branch website.

It continues, “Our expectation is that the cost of liquor distribution will be lower. British Columbians will pay about the same amount for liquor after liquor distribution is privatized, because the province will continue to control pricing.”

The strike, which took place in all three liquor distribution warehouses in B.C., was also held in response to contract negotiations, which have been ongoing for six months.

“We’re just looking for a fair deal,” Finch said.

The union does not support an offer by the government for raises of two per cent, and 1.5 per cent, respectively, over the next two years, he said. “We’ve seen our members’ wages deteriorate for three years due to (a wage freeze and) inflation.”

Asked whether it was dangerous to demand higher salaries at a time when the government is looking to privatize a public service, Finch said “absolutely not.”

“I think historically, the public in B.C. has supported the public-sector unions when we’ve asked for reasonable increases to keep up with inflation.”

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon responded to the union’s strike vote by suggesting the wage offer could be withdrawn. The government describes its current negotiating mandate as “co-operative gains,” where pay increases must be financed by cost reductions in work arrangement.

– with files from Tom Fletcher

rholmen@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Royal Roads University to host a Black History Month panel

Four speakers will discuss being of African heritage in B.C.

VIDEO: Friday night fire outside Saanich Staples

Witness says two employees helped put out blaze

Victoria non-profit empowers women escaping abusive homes with a fresh start

Organization’s gift certificate program helped around 400 women last year

VIDEO: Royal Bay Secondary students take flight in ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’

Play tells the story of the orphan who becomes Peter Pan

Volunteers begin work on memorial garden for former Metchosin counsellor

Garden a fitting tribute to Moralea Milne, a champion of Garry oak ecosystems

VIDEO: Iconic ‘snow cone’ takes shape at B.C. park near Clearwater

Snow cone forming at Wells Gray Provincial Park one that would make Disney’s Queen Elsa proud

POLL: Will you be wearing pink to take a stand against bullying?

Schools and workplaces across Greater Victoria and around the province will be… Continue reading

Pink Shirt Day a reminder to ‘T.H.I.N.K.’ before posting on social media

‘Be Kind’ message on shirts sold for anti-bullying activities of Wednesday, Feb. 27

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

Most Read