B.C. Liberals restrict public liquor hours to aid private sellers

'Turning away business is a clear sign that the Campbell government is mismanaging our public liquor store system.' - George Heyman


Vancouver (22 Dec. 2006) - The Liberal government of B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell is undermining public liquor sales over the holidays by cancelling normal extended hours, thus streaming additional consumers through the doors of private liquor outlets run by its business friends.

Private B.C. liquor retailers generally offer more limited choice and charge higher prices than public stores. A March 2006 report by the Consumers Association of Canada found private liquor sellers charge up to 35% more for the same products as public outlets.

The last-minute decision by the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) represents a significant inconvenience to many citizens, argues the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).

“I can’t understand how the LDB can make a decision like this,” says union president George Heyman. “This is the busiest time of the year for our public liquor stores (yet) the LDB decides to cut back on its hours of service to the public and drive customers away.”

Heyman says the move amounts to a lavish gift to private retailers at consumer expense. “Turning away business is a clear sign that the Campbell government is mismanaging our public liquor store system,” he adds.

Heyman says it is common practice for public stores to extend open hours during the holidays. This year all public stores were to be open until 9 p.m. on Dec. 23 and Dec. 30. Signs were posted advertising the extended hours, and staff had been scheduled to work.

However, in a last-minute directive from senior management, LDB employees have been advised in a one-sentence notice: "We will not be extending our shopping hours at any B.C. Liquor Store this season.”

No explanation was given. Staff were ordered to remove extended hours advertising from public outlets and change their work schedules accordingly.

LDB Signature stores in select urban locations will operate at regular non-seasonal hours on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31. The BCGEU represents around 5,300 employees at the LDB who work in retail, shipping and warehousing. NUPGE

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