As the government’s sale of B.C. liquor distribution warehouses sizzles away — private offers are due at month’s end — the union opposed to the move held barbecues in Kamloops on Thursday.
The BCGEU, convinced the sale is a precursor to getting government out of the liquor retail business as well, is starting a public campaign to oppose the move.
A union spokesman said Thursday’s low-key gatherings were intended to advise employees of the Fight Back campaign. A public petition drive gets underway this weekend.
“You can’t privatize a distribution system and not feel threatened by the closure of stores in the not-too-distant future,” said Oliver Rohlfs of the BCGEU.
Critics of the move, including the B.C. Brewers Guild representing smaller brewhouses, maintain that selling the distribution branch will merely increase prices and decrease selection for B.C. consumers.
The sale will privatize a system that includes three warehouses in Kamloops, Vancouver and Victoria.
A Dallas warehouse here employs 47 full-time employees and 36 auxiliaries. Property is not included in the government’s request for proposals, so there is a concern a private operator might choose to shut down the Kamloops operation.
The union has signed a memorandum of understanding with the government that offers the employees job security.
Rohlfs said the sale doesn’t make any sense other than to pad the pockets of private interests and the public’s expense. LDB profits generate almost $1 billion, helping to offset the cost of social programs, he said.
“Why kill the golden goose?”
Craft brewers have sided with the union.
“The government has been rushing this through without any regards for small business in British Columbia,” Tod Melnyk, chairman of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild, said last week. “There has been no transparency or consultation with the guild, and we have yet to see a business case that supports this initiative or demonstrate how this will benefit the province.”
The government maintains that revenues will remain similar and privatization will modernize distribution, making it more cost-effective.