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Tuesday, Jan 18, 2022
Mugglehead Magazine
Cannabis & psychedelics industry news based in Vancouver, B.C.
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BC budtender rehired after being fired for pushing for unionization

Niko Kruzel was axed after contacting the BC Budtender Union regarding scheduling, pay and not receiving benefits

Screenshot via Google Maps by Natalia Buendia Calvillo

After pushing for unionization due to poor scheduling, wages and benefits, budtender Niko Kruzel was fired. But as of Friday, he will go back to work as a union member.

In a statement Friday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union B.C. local 1518 (UFCW 1518) said its British Columbia Budtender Union division was contacted by Kruzel and his fellow budtenders regarding issues with scheduling, as well as inconsistent and low pay, and not receiving benefits, while working at Burnside Buds in Victoria, B.C.

“I would say health benefits being promised but never delivered was a big one, and then the schedule was really getting messed around and has been in the last two months,” Kruzel said in a phone call with Mugglehead.

“It’s just bad management. There was a manager who was hired there, who was telling people to come in without masks and stuff, and it just was a bit of a disaster.”

Read more: BC’s paid sick leave must include gig, contract workers, union argues

Read more: Victoria private cannabis workers first to unionize in Canada

Kruzel says he was hired in May and had never received any write-ups or complaints from his boss, but three days after he and his coworkers voted for unionization, he received a late-night message from the owner firing him for “lack of trust and poor work ethic.”

He told the union he was shocked when he received the message, and thinks it was a “knee-jerk” reaction from his employer.

Along with Kruzel’s firing, he says the owner also retaliated by removing employee snacks such as juice boxes, chips and reducing the employee discount.

The union filed a complaint with the Labour Relations Board, calling out the employer for firing Kruzel unlawfully and its reaction to employees unionizing.

“I’m really glad that the union had my back in terms of willing to go to court for me. The employer was actually gonna fight back and I guess they got advice that it was a bad idea,” he explains.

The BC Budtender Union says situations like Kruzel’s are too common. Submitted photo

The BC Budtender Union said these situations are too common in the retail industry and some employers go out of their way to avoid employees joining a union by intimidating them or removing job perks like snacks or discounts.

After the complaint was placed with the labour board, Kruzel was rehired and the owner returned employees their snacks and 20-per-cent discounts.

“I think things are kind of on the up and up,” he says, adding that the upcoming negotiations will be good for all the employees.

Employees, now unionized, are looking forward to bargaining their first contract and will be fighting for consistent schedules, a living wage and health benefits.

Read more: BC grower becomes Canada’s first licensed producer to unionize

The BC Budtenders Union started in 2020. Budtenders from Clarity Cannabis joined the UFCW 1518 in 2019 after confronting low wages, poor treatment and lack of benefits.

Budtenders at Burnside Buds have now joined budtenders from retailers that unionized this year including Trees Cannabis and one of oldest compassion clubs in Canada, the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club.

In March, Peachland-based Potanicals Green Growers became the first licensed producer to join the UFCW 1518’s BC BUD division.

Mugglehead reached out to Burnside buds for comment, but didn’t get a response before publication.

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. B BUDS.CA

    December 6, 2021 at 10:51 pm

    Hello Natalie :
    B BUDS.CA ended its employment relationship with Niko Kruzel on November 6, 2021, because of an ongoing issue of trust and poor work ethic and only reinstated Kruzel by way of a Settlement Agreement due to the timing of the dismissal and the financial implications for the business. The company reinstated the snacks and the twenty percent employees discount through an Estoppel Notice as these items were not part of the employees’ condition of employment. The employee’s discount has always been 15 percent. The free snacks were given to enhance the workplace and make it more enjoyable; instead, certain staff members constantly complain about the types, the quality, quantity and accommodation for individual dietary restrictions, etc.

    Niko Kruzel began working on a part-time basis at B BUDS.CA on May 23, 2021, after leaving Clarity Cannabis(a unionized private cannabis store ). On August 29, 2021, B Buds had a change of manager. The former manager was dismissed due to intense pressure by Kruzel and several of his co-workers.
    On September 17, 2021, management took the budtenders out for dinner and bowling at Langford lanes to rebuild the team. A new manager was installed in the subsequent days ( September 20, 2021). The manager began implementing necessary operational changes such as hiring new staff members, preparing to terminate some individuals, and updating the company policies and code of conduct.

    Kruzel had two other jobs at the start of his employment with B BUDS.CA, at which he worked Monday to Wednesday during the day and in the evenings.
    He worked at B BUDS.CA approximately 19 hours a week from Thursday to Sunday. Kruzel was often late ( for example, Sept 3 and 23, October 7, and October 21 ). Moreover, Kruzel would often complain of feeling exhausted and was prone to making mistakes. For example, on September 27, Kruzel deposited his September 15 paycheque twice, then alleged that the company’s cheque bounced.
    On September 24, Kruzel agreed in a text message to cover the Monday afternoon shift temporarily from October 4 until the company found someone. On October 7, 2021, Kruzel informed the manager that he could no longer cover the shift. The manager arranged for someone to cover the shift. Still, on October 9, 2021, Kruzel’s friend and workmate accused the company of disrespecting Kruzel by asking him to work on a day that Kruzel had not agreed to and called the manager a liar. When management asked Kruzel if he agreed to cover the shift temporarily, Kruzel did not refute the claim nor correct his friend’s aspersion about the manager.
    The same day Kruzel cold-shouldered the business owner because she asked him to change the music to something more appropriate for the store ambience.
    October 25, 2021, the Union served the company with the Applications for Union Certification. Unbeknown to management, the Union Campaign began on October 1, 2021, roughly ten days after the new manager started.
    On November 3, 2021: less than twenty-four hours before the votes were officially counted, Kruzel emailed the company writing,
    “I am asking to retain my usual hours of employment but finish work earlier in the evening (finishing no later than 7pm). Alternatively, I would be happy to work during the day. I am happy to work with you to find a work plan that is suitable while also taking into consideration the needs of the business and accompanying my other job, as well as my already accommodated unavailability on Sunday and Monday.”

    Before November 3, 2021, Kruzel had never mentioned his health concerns. The only way management could have accommodated Kruzel was by bumping three of his co-workers: two of whom have seniority. The other has a medical and availability restriction (She is a student and is only available to work on weekends, during daylight).
    The Union took up this issue, and as a result, Kruzel was reinstated but was only able to work one shift per week.
    The outcome would have been quite different had the company disciplined Kruzel for his actions before October 25, 2021. B BUDS.CA values a strong work ethic(integrity, trust, positivity, respect, and accountability ), and no amount of cannabis knowledge would replace a strong work ethic.

    Any budtender considering joining a union, should consider their individual needs first. He who has seniority and has a medical restriction will trump your seniority.

    B BUDS
    Management Team

  2. B BUDS

    December 6, 2021 at 11:39 pm

    Hello Natalie,
    Your article is incorrect! You must ask Niko if he has ever brought up any of his concerns raised with the employer. If Niko said he did.. then you must ask for the written proof.
    . What Niko wanted was to bump his senior co-workers so he can get the hours he wanted .
    Niko gained his co-workers trust, then convinced them to vote yes. Once the employees voted yes, Niko and his friends brought forward their individual concerns via the union .Niko wanted to maintain his other jobs, not work on Monday and Sunday, and received further accommodation to work no later than 7 pm. To do this Niko would have had to bump three of his co- workers .The union tried to accommodate Niko, but it didn’t work out. Niko now only work one of his three shifts . Niko’s friend wanted to work a minimum of 30 hours despite knowing all positions, except for the manager is Partime and less than 30 hours per week . Since the union has formed one employee has been bumped and she is now working less hours and the team morale has been diminished .

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