B.C.’s hospitality and tourism businesses urge swift end to BCGEU job action

The sector “still reeling from the global pandemic is now at the mercy of a labour dispute,” say advocates calling for an end to job action.

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An alliance of 19 industry associations and stakeholder groups representing the province’s hospitality, liquor, tourism, accommodation, and cannabis retail businesses sent an open letter to B.C. Premier John Horgan and the B.C. General Employees’ Union (BCGEU), urging a swift resolution when the two parties return to the bargaining table.

On Aug. 15, the BCGEU commenced job action outside four key Liquor Distribution Branch warehouses, which together supply about 40 per cent of all alcohol in B.C. and are the only source for imported alcohol products and “ready-to-drink” beverages. The warehouses are also the only source of legal regulated cannabis for most of B.C.’s cannabis retailers.

Though intended to motivate the provincial government, advocates say that the BCGEU’s job action strikes another crushing blow to the hospitality and tourism sector, which is only beginning to recover after the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This labour dispute has nothing to do with our sector; we’re collateral damage in this job action,” said Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC). “We support workers’ rights, but no one has the right to cause this much disruption and damage to industries not involved in negotiations.”

Picket lines outside the LDB warehouses mean that restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, event venues, hotels and retailers can’t pick up orders already placed and can’t place new liquor or cannabis orders. Provincial regulations do not permit direct delivery of many liquor and cannabis products to licensees and retailers, nor are they allowed to buy products themselves from B.C. Liquor stores or from other retailers.

Cut off from inventory, many establishments, venues and retailers have already begun to experience product shortages and impacts on revenue—some are contemplating layoffs as early as next week, as reported.

“Before the pandemic, B.C.’s hospitality and tourism sector was growing faster than the provincial economy as a whole, but we’ve suffered an inequitable share of pandemic-related setbacks over the past few years,” said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA). “Now once again, our industries will unfairly bear the brunt of serious economic consequences including business closures and layoffs, cancelled events such as concerts and weddings, loss of consumer confidence, and damage to B.C.’s reputation among tourists and consumers.”

Read the open letter from industry associations and stakeholder groups on the BCRFA website here.

B.C. Hospitality and Tourism Sector – Fast Facts Hospitality & Tourism: BCRFA

• Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth of B.C.’s hospitality and tourism sector was outperforming the province’s economy as a whole.

• In 2019, B.C.'s tourism industry generated some $22.3 billion in revenue and supported more than 250,000 jobs.

• In 2020 (last stats available; 2021 stats not yet published), the industry generated $7.1 billion in revenue, a drop of 70 per cent.

• The tourism industry's GDP declined by 64 per cent in 2020 compared with 2019.

• The number of people directly employed by tourism-related businesses also declined by 64 per cent.

• There are 19,690 tourism-related businesses in B.C.—many only survived the pandemic because of federal initiatives such as CEWS, CERT, and the province's Small & Medium-sized Business Grant Program

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