MONTREAL -- Unions representing workers at Quebec's network of government-run cannabis stores are recommending that the employees accept their first labour contract, which has been recommended by a special mediator, The Canadian Press has learned.

Several general assemblies of unionized SQDC workers represented by the FTQ-affiliated Syndicat Canadien de la fonction publique and Syndicat des employes de la SQDC, affiliated with the CSN, are being held this weekend, and the unions will recommend that their members vote to ratify the agreements.

Technically, what the employees will be voting to ratify is not an agreement in principle, but a contract recommended by special mediator Lise Lavallee and endorsed by the two unions.

Lavallee was recently named as a special mediator by Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet, who wanted to encourage talks between the two sides to continue, despite a request by the unions to appoint an arbitrator.

SQDC employees earn $14.25 an hour, and salaries are one of the issues at the heart of the labour talks.

The unions want the SQDC workers' salaries to more closely reflect those of similar Quebec-run companies such as the SAQ, where cashiers earn a starting salary of $20.46 an hour, with a top salary of $26.46. The unions say SQDC workers don't just sell the product, but also have to educate clients as to what their stores offer.

The SQDC has countered by saying that SQDC clerks have more in common with those in the retail sector, who earn between $12.50 and $16 an hour on average.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2019.