BC’s Paid Sick Leave Program: Frequently Asked Questions

In November, the BC Government-mandated 5 days of paid sick leave per year starting January 1, 2022. This change happened after months of advocacy from UFCW 1518, union members, and the labour movement. To provide clarity about the paid sick leave program, we have collected responses to some of the recurring questions members have asked about BC’s Paid Sick Leave program.


Q: What happens if I am a casual or part-time worker and my employer denied me access to the 5 paid sick days?

Please contact your union representative to report the issue. If you don’t know who your union representative is, please call us at 604.526.1518.

Under the Employment Standards Act, unionized employers are required to meet or exceed leave provisions under the Act. Each collective agreement is different, so speak to your union representative for further clarification.

Q: If I’m new at work, do I get the 5 paid sick days?

Only employees who have worked for the employer for at least 90 days qualify.

Q: Can I use the 5 days for any type of illness?

Yes, you can use the 5 paid sick days for any type of illness.

Q: Do I need to take the 5 days consecutively?

No, you do not need to take the 5 days consecutively.

Q: What if my employer already offers 5 paid sick days, do I get 5 more days?

No. If your employer offers 5 days or more, then your employer already complies with BC’s Paid Sick Leave Program. Nevertheless, the 5 days of paid sick leave is a big win for workers who were not offered a paid sick leave before this mandate.

Q: If I don’t get sick for one year, can I carry over the 5 days to the following year?

No. Workers cannot carry the paid sick days year to year. They will expire annually if left unused.

Q: How will the 5 days of paid sick leave impact my collective agreement?

If you have specific questions about the paid sick leave program and how it relates to your collective agreement, please reach out to your union representative.

Q: What other government-mandated leaves should I know about?

Yes, under the Employment Standards Act, employees can take:

  • 3 days of unpaid sick leave
  • up to 5 days of unpaid family responsibility leave
  • up to 5 days of paid leave and 5 more days of unpaid leave per calendar year if they are impacted by domestic or sexual violence

For more information on leaves of absence under the BC employment standards, check out the BC Government website.

BC Budtender Union Growing Solidarity in Cannabis Industry

The BC Budtender Union is growing fast as workers at Seed & Stone and the Original FARM vote to join.

A division of UFCW 1518, the BC Budtender Union now represents cannabis workers at seven locations across British Columbia. UFCW 1518 has organized workers at Clarity Cannabis, Victoria Cannabis Buyers’ Club (VCBC), Burnside Buds, and Trees Cannabis. Cannabis growing operation, Potanicals Green Growers in Peachland, BC, is also a part of the union.

Budtenders have been reaching out to UFCW 1518 since 2020 seeking to build more power and respect at work. As the cannabis industry continues to grow, more and more workers have been feeling left behind. Cannabis dispensaries have sprung up across BC since weed was legalized in 2018. However, the workers—essential frontline employees in the COVID-19 pandemic—have not seen an equal share of the profits.

“I’m really glad that I’m not alone in the eyes of the corporation I’m working for now,” said Seed & Stone Budtender Zach Wedderburn. “When you’re an employee it’s a lot more beneficial to be part of a union because there’s a lot more equality and equity.”


With these two new workplaces, the BC Budtender Union will continue growing and building worker power in the cannabis sector. BC Bud members have already gained significant improvements in their jobs, negotiating first contracts that include:

  • Cannabis sommelier training paid for by the employer
  • Industry-leading wages and regularly-scheduled raises
  • Employer-paid certification and licensing
  • Weed tasting and store discounts of up to 30% off
  • And more: read about the first contract at Clarity Cannabis to learn more

Workers at Seed & Stone and Farm are looking forward to beginning the bargaining process and making improvements at their workplaces. “In bargaining, a living wage is one of our top priorities,” said Wedderburn, “but we’re also looking forward to improved communication and more smoothness in day-to-day operations. We all care about this business running well, but we’re looking for our employer to meet us halfway.”

In addition to organizing cannabis retail locations and fighting for wage increases, UFCW 1518 has also fought back against unfair firings in the cannabis industry. In November, the union took the case of an illegally fired budtender to the Labour Relations Board, helping the worker get his job back.

Budtenders looking to learn more about the benefits of joining a union can learn more at ufcw1518.com/cannabis.

Budtender Fired For Unionizing Gets Job Back

A Budtender in Victoria will be going back to work on Friday after he was fired three weeks ago.

Niko Kruzel works as a Budtender at Burnside Buds, a cannabis dispensary located in Victoria, BC. After months of dealing with issues regarding scheduling, inconsistent and low pay, and lack of health benefits, Kruzel and fellow Budtenders decided to contact a union organizer for the BC Budtender Union, a cannabis-focused division of UFCW 1518.

Kruzel started working at Burnside Buds in May 2021. Prior to unionizing, he had never received a write-up or formal reprimand. Three days after the employees voted to unionize, the store owner fired Kruzel through text message. The employer cited ‘lack of trust’ and ‘poor work ethic’ as reasons for the firing.

I’m excited to be back on the team that banded together to unionize

“I was surprised and shocked to get that late-night text,” said Kruzel. “It felt like a knee-jerk reaction from the employer and showed they didn’t know a lot about running a business.”

In the following days, the owner removed snacks from the staff room and reduced the employee discount.

The union filed a complaint with the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB). The complaint stated that Burnside fired Kruzel unlawfully and took away the staff snacks to retaliate against the union supporters.

“Union busting is all too common in retail, and frankly, it’s childish,” says Eric Nordal, a BC Budtender Organizer. “Some employers try everything to prevent workers from joining a union, like coercing, intimidating, taking away benefits, or straight-up lying. Luckily, here in BC, this is illegal, and we do have avenues to fight back.”

Fired budtender headed back to work

After UFCW 1518 took the complaint to the LRB, Burnside agreed to reinstate Kruzel, refill the snacks, and reinstate a 20% employee discount. Kruzel will be heading back to work this Friday.

“I’m excited to be back on the team that banded together to unionize and that looks out for each other when the employer doesn’t,” said Kruzel. “I’m looking forward to future negotiations and to serving people, as I’ve always done.”

Burnside Budtenders will now begin bargaining their first contract where they will fight for a living wage, health benefits and more.

Workers at non-unionized cannabis stores can learn more about the benefits of joining a union at ufcw1518.com/cannabis.

BC Government Announces Five Permanent Paid Sick Days

BC Labour Minister Harry Bains announced today that all workers in BC will have five paid sick days. This is a historic moment in the province’s history. The program begins on January 1, 2022, and will be employer-funded.

Today’s announcement improves upon the government’s temporary plan providing three days of COVID-related paid leave. The new, permanent plan provides five (5) paid days for any sickness or illness.

UFCW 1518, the labour movement, and other advocates have been fighting for a permanent, universal, employer-funded sick leave program since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s win is a momentous occasion in the advancement of workers’ rights in British Columbia and sets the stage for more improvements here and elsewhere.

“This is a big moment for worker rights, and it is long overdue. Paid sick days has always been a health and safety issue, which every worker should have access to,” UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak explained. “This is an important day for every worker who has not had access to paid sick days. Thank you to all of our members and every worker who shared their stories on why permanent paid sick days are so important. This helps make us a stronger society coming out of a pandemic than we were going into it.”

Today’s announcement means that far fewer people will have to choose between going to work sick and paying their bills. This legislation will help women and racialized workers who predominantly make up low-wage workers. The majority of these workers have not had access to permanent paid sick leave before.

You can learn more about the permanent sick leave plan on our FAQ page.

UFCW 1518 will continue to press the province to add more days to the permanent employer-funded sick leave program.

Workers at Burnside Buds Join UFCW 1518

The BC Budtenders Union grew larger today after workers at Burnside Buds voted to join UFCW 1518.

Burnside Buds has one location in Victoria, where they have served cannabis to the public for several years.

The workers voted unanimously to join the BC Budtender Union, a division of UFCW 1518.

Initially, workers at Burnside Buds reached out to UFCW 1518 in late 2021, seeking more respect and better working conditions.

After the successful union vote, UFCW 1518 made an immediate impact at Burnside Buds. The union brought the case of a fired union supporter to the BC Labour Relations Board. As a result, the worker won his job back. It is illegal to fire an employee for supporting or voting for a union.

Over the next few months, the union and workers will begin negotiating with the company on workplace changes. In the past, BC BUD members have won higher wages, training and certification, and other major improvements to their workplaces. For example, workers at nearby Clarity Cannabis negotiated employer-paid Cannabis Sommelier training, among other major improvements.

Budtenders at Burnside Buds are looking forward to beginning the bargaining process and fighting for fairness at work.

If you are a budtender and you would like to find out how to join UFCW 1518 and improve your job, check out ufcw1518.com/cannabis.

Safeway Extra Stores Return to Safeway Contract!

UFCW 1518 is excited to announce that we have reached an agreement with Sobeys to bring all Safeway Extra stores back under the Safeway collective agreement.

As of December 5, 2021, all UFCW 1518 members at the three Safeway Extra stores (Willowbrook, Burquitlam and Dawson Creek) will join thousands of other UFCW 1518 members working at Safeway stores across the province under one superior contract.

Workers at Safeway Extra will now have access to provisions of the Safeway agreement, including things like:

  • Wage increases for all employees (including Grid A and B), scheduled for January 1, 2022
  • Cross-classification scheduling for all employees to capture more hours
  • Student seniority

This new agreement will help to build strength, solidarity, and momentum as Safeway members approach new contract bargaining in 2023.

In addition to implementing the terms of the Safeway collective agreement, the Union and Employer will meet within 30 days to review job postings that will go up in these stores. These will be full-time job postings for anyone in the geographic area to apply for and will be awarded by seniority.

UFCW 1518 congratulates the Safeway Extra Bargaining Committee, made up of Viril Anderson, Teresa Vegh and Marlene White, for helping to secure this transition agreement.

We are also pleased to share that UFCW 247 has also reached an agreement to move their members back to the Safeway agreement.

Retail workers who are interested in gaining collective bargaining strength by joining a union can learn more at ufcw1518.com/retail.

Uber Drivers Fired for Refusing Unsafe Work

***Update: The Labour Relations Board has set hearing dates with UFCW 1518 and Uber on January 31, February 1, and February 2. Stay tuned for updates on the outcome of that hearing.

UFCW 1518 is taking the cases of several Uber Drivers fired for refusing unsafe work to the Labour Relations Board by filing an unfair labour practice complaint against giant tech corporation Uber.

The Uber drivers claim that they were fired after refusing unsafe work. In one case, a customer threatened to lodge a complaint against a driver and became violent after the driver asked her to wear a mask while she was in his vehicle. The driver phoned the police who had to remove the customer from the driver’s car.

In another incident, a driver refused to take four passengers in his vehicle as doing so violated Uber’s explicit COVID-19 safety regulations. The driver believes that the customer who ordered the trip retaliated against him by leaving a bad review and rating.

Drivers reported that they frequently had to deal with intoxicated and impaired customers who were rude, demanding and insulting. When they asked the riders to tone down their behaviour, the riders indicated that they would lodge formal complaints.

Despite having strong driving records and high customer ratings and reviews, the drivers discovered that the Uber app had been deactivated from their phones following complaints. They attempted to reach Uber support to dispute the complaints but were unable to learn more or tell their side of the story. Uber support did not follow up on requests for review or make further attempts to contact the drivers.

For all of the drivers involved, working for Uber was their chief source of income. The workers had been driving for Uber for several months without incident. One had over 1,000 five-star reviews on his account. These drivers rely on the app to support their families and have felt devastated at losing their jobs without investigation.

“I bought a new car, borrowed money from my friend and planned to start studying for my future, but my livelihood was stolen from me,” explained driver Bhupinder Singh. “It affected my mental health. I was a top star rating driver and completed more than 2,000 trips and with two false and angry customer accusations, Uber deactivated my account without proper investigation.”

Labour Relations Board to Rule on Drivers’ Case

If the Labour Relations Board rules in favour of the UFCW 1518 complaint, the drivers could get their jobs back and earn compensation for the unfair firings.

The union is also seeking changes to the Employment Standards Act to enable app-based workers like Uber drivers to join a union and receive other basic protections. In a letter to Labour Minister Harry Bains and Parliamentary Secretary Adam Walker, UFCW 1518 asked that the Government of British Columbia amend the Employment Standards Act to enable app-based contract workers like Uber drivers to join a union, classify them as employees and allow them to receive other basic protections.

UFCW 1518 has been working with Uber drivers and other workers in the gig economy to fight for more fairness, better wages, and safer conditions for precarious workers.

If you are an Uber driver or do other app-based or gig economy work, learn more about the benefits of joining a union at ufcw1518.com/drivers-united

Mid-Island Co-op Members Win Significant Contract Improvements

Mid-Island Co-op workers in Nanaimo, British Columbia, just finished bargaining for a new collective agreement. They ratified the new contract with a 100% unanimous vote.

The bargaining committee, made up of Stefanie Droog and recently retired Karen Becia, performed an outstanding job and worked tirelessly to ensure that members received the improvements and raises they deserve.

Numerous changes were made to the new contract, including the following:

  • 2.25% wage increase in year 1 of the agreement (8% total)
  • Retroactive wages paid to the expiry of the previous agreement
  • $750 signing bonus
  • First-ever Joint Labour Management Committee
  • No concessions

UFCW 1518 is now completing a copy of the new agreement, which will be distributed to Mid-Island Co-op members as soon as it is ready. Congratulations on your new contract, Mid-Island Co-op members!

For a summary of the new agreement, click here. To find out how to join a union and fight for improved working conditions, visit ufcw1518.com/join-us.

Workers at Avalon Dairy Win Major Contract Improvements

Ninety percent of voting workers at Avalon Dairy voted “yes” to a new contract that will bring major improvements to their workplace.

Avalon Dairy workers became members of UFCW 1518 in March 2021 and began the process of negotiating their first collective agreement shortly after. They came together to seek major workplace improvements and wage increases that will make a big difference in the lives of members. 

Contract Highlights

With today’s “yes” vote, Avalon workers have won:

  • Union representation, including a procedure for grievances so workplace problems can be resolved.
  • New health & safety provisions including a Joint Health & Safety Committee.
  • Respectful workplace language that ensures workers are treated with respect.
  • Seniority and hiring and promotion provisions to make the workplace more fair.
  • An increase in the safety boot allowance to $150.00 per year.
  • Vision care coverage of $200.00 every twenty-four months.
  • Sick days increased to three days a year. Additionally, workers can carry unused sick days over for one year.
  • Major wage growth on the following schedule:
  • First year: A new wage classification system that will result in a minimum of a 2% wage increase. However, most members will see a significantly higher increase
  • Second year: 2% wages increase
  • Third year: 2.25% wage increase

“Workers at Avalon have proved the power of collective action with this strong new contract,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “Their solidarity is an inspiration to workers throughout the industrial food sector to stand up for better working conditions and wages.”

For more info on the Avalon Dairy contract improvements, read the full collective bargaining agreement. Workers can also speak to their shop stewards or union representative to learn more about the contract.

Avalon Dairy workers are the latest to join the industrial food division of UFCW 1518. If you want to join a union and fight for better wages and working conditions, learn more at ufcw1518.com/join-us.