Twelve weeks after the opening of the Cannabis NB facility in New Brunswick, the provincial cannabis authority is firing about 60 retail workers.
The announcement comes after months of supply problems related to problems of lost crops and packaging equipment, and reduced the hours for some workers, while the 20 provincial stores waited for new stocks.
"This decision is representative of the new normal operations of the retail industry and of long-term fiscal responsibility," said Marie-Andrée Bolduc, communications specialist at Cannabis NB, in a statement.
The corporation has not released any sales numbers since Oct. 24 when it reported that $ 945,000 worth of marijuana had been sold within the first 48 hours of legalization.
Three workers per store
Each Cannabis NB store employed about 20 full-time, part-time and casual workers.
Casual employees start at around $ 19 an hour, while the rate for full-time and part-time employees ranges from $ 22 to $ 23 per hour. Unlike the casual employees of NB Liquor, casual cannabis employees do not have benefits.
"By entering the third month of operation after legalizing adult marijuana use, day-to-day operations have normalized despite addressing supply challenges and we have a better understanding of operational needs at each store," said Bolduc .
The overall impact of layoffs is "an average of three team members per store."
Most of the laid-off employees were on seasonal contracts, but some part-time and full-time employees were also affected.
"This is because, from store to store, it is necessary to ensure that the mix of roles in the store is optimized. In some cases, now that the operation has been normalized, the mix of roles had to be adjusted," said Bolduc. .
On Wednesday, several workers received letters indicating that their employment would be terminated in effect immediately with two weeks of payment in lieu of notice.
"We want to thank you for your contribution, your passion and dedication to CANNABIS NB from the beginning. You were a fundamental part of something historical and have been fundamental to the success of the team," said an employee's letter of dismissal.
Despite a union conducted by CUPE 963, the union representing New Brunswick Liquor workers, Cannabis NB employees are not unionized.
No products to sell
Supply problems at Cannabis NB led to the closure of stores and the frustration of some consumers in the early days of legalization.
In June, Brian Harriman, president and CEO of NB Liquor and Cannabis New Brunswick, said that about 250 different products would be transported in 20 Cannabis NB stores.
The shops are built to accommodate up to 800 different products.
But in reality, the selection was much more limited.
On Wednesday, there were 67 cannabis products listed for sale on Cannabis NB's website, including dried flowers, extracts, seeds and pre-rolled joints.
But 43 of these products – more than 64% of total offers – have been sold at all 20 retail locations.
Another 13 products were sold at most locations.
Although some of the sold-out products remain available for purchase through the Cannabis NB website, it costs an additional $ 7 for home delivery – and requires a credit card.
On December 20, 2018, Canadian privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien warned Canadian consumers that using a credit card to buy marijuana could put their personal information at risk.
Statistics Canada reported in October that the average cannabis price in Atlantic Canada was approximately $ 7 per gram.
But Cannabis NB products are pretty much north of that – and the less expensive one gram packages tend to run out quickly.
The dry button known as Lemon Skunk, for example, costs $ 15.50 for a single gram, including taxes, in New Brunswick – one of the most expensive prices listed in Canada.
In Prince Edward Island, the same product sold for $ 14.50. In Newfoundland and Labrador, it cost $ 14 and $ 13.43 in Nova Scotia,
Prices were even lower west of the region: Ontario ($ 13.25), Manitoba ($ 12.60) and British Columbia ($ 11.22).
Expected quarterly sales results
Cannabis NB did not comment on Wednesday whether slower-than-expected customer traffic or supply problems were factored into Wednesday's layoffs.
"Cannabis NB reviewed its current business needs in one store per store and a decision was made to reduce existing staff to ensure alignment with business needs," said Bolduc.
"The teams and functions have been structured to allow for flexibility in delivering the required customer experience and to manage expectations that store personnel can change after launch."
Cannabis NB is expected to release its first quarterly sales figures at the end of January.