MONTREAL -- MONTREAL - Workers with the Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC) have ratified a recommendation for settlement made by a special mediator appointed by Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet.

The workers, affiliated with Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the CSN’s Federation of Public Service Employees (FEESP-CSN), had been recommended to accept mediator Lise Lavallée’s report to conclude negotiations, The Canadian Press reported last Friday.

General meetings were held for the two unions on Saturday and Sunday; these first collective agreements will span two years.

The two organizations had decided to join forces to improve the working conditions of members at the SQDC.

Marc Ranger, Quebec director of CUPE, points out that negotiations were not easy because wages and working conditions were minimal, in his opinion.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Boulet said he was delighted with the result.

Before he appointed a special mediator, the CUPE had requested arbitration – something Boulet worried would lengthen delays and prolong wage increases for workers.

“Time was an extremely important factor. Our objective was achieved and I'm really proud of that, really happy,” he said. “I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the unions, the representatives of the employer, the SQDC, and everyone who was involved.”

The issue of salary was at the heart of the dispute as the unions were comparing their members to those of other Crown Corporations, like the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) where in-store salaries start at $20.46 an hour and can reach $26.46 an hour.

They argued SQDC workers aren't just salespeople; they have an educational and informative mission to fulfill.

Management with the SQDC had insisted it operates in the retail sector and wages in this field usually range from $12.50 to $16 an hour.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2019.