Convinced that it’s seeing the first move in a plan to get government out of the liquor business, the BCGEU is about to launch a campaign opposing the sale of LCB distribution warehouses.
Privatization of the two warehouses, announced in the government’s 2012 budget in February, is proceeding rapidly with the issuing of a negotiated request for proposals.
Initial proposals are due by the end of next month for the sale, which includes a Dallas warehouse.
The Liberal government maintains it has no plan to privatize the retail side of the business, but that’s not how BCGEU president Darryl Walker reads it.
“I think that’s part of the rationale,” he said, noting the apparent absence of any other. The distribution system is a government revenue generator, so hiving it off doesn’t make sense when the province is wallowing in deficit.
“I still don’t know that we understand any more than we did some months ago as to why this is being done,” Walker said.
MLA Kevin Krueger, whose constituency includes the warehouse and its 83 jobs, deferred questions to the ministry responsible for liquor distribution. A ministry spokesperson stated that the province believes the private sector is better suited to the operation of non-core services such as liquor distribution.
“We expect this will result in a more modern and cost-effective distribution model in British Columbia and government revenues will be similar to existing revenues,” she said.
She also noted that until the process is complete, there is no way to determine where the privatized warehouses will be located. Kamloops stands to lose 47 full-time and 36 auxiliary positions, even though current employees have been guaranteed — through a memorandum of agreement reached in March — that they will have jobs after the sale.
The omission of warehouse properties in the sale surprised Walker.
“Quite frankly, until I saw the request for proposals, I was under the impression that the property and the warehouse would be part of it,” he said. “It was a surprise to me. I thought it would be business as usual.”
The Vancouver warehouse property represents considerable land value, he noted. Excluding the property assets raises the possibility that the distribution system could be consolidated in one location.
In the collective agreement strike vote winding up today, the BCGEU is urging LDB workers to vote in favour of a strike to send a message to government that they oppose the privatization.
Walker said the public campaign will begin within the next week or so.
“It really is about getting the general public on side so they can understand the politics here.”