LCBO strike vote looms

ONTARIO—The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) has requested the Ministry of Labour appoint a conciliator in its contract negotiations with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Although the union notes that it “hopes the help of a neutral third party will move talks forward,” according to Denise Davis, chair of the bargaining team for OPSEU, the prognosis seems grim.

“The LCBO is demanding concessions at the bargaining table that are alarming,” said Ms. Davis. “If accepted, these proposals will weaken the LCBO and this our members cannot and will not accept. Our proposals are aimed at building a stronger LCBO.”

Conciliation is an important step in bargaining, notes a press release from the union. If it fails, either side can start the clock ticking towards a legal strike or lockout deadline.

In anticipation of the worst, the union has announced a province-wide strike vote will be held on April 24 and 25.

According to the union press release, job security, scheduling and health and safety are among several major concerns for the 7,500 LCBO staff members represented by OPSEU.

“The context of this round of bargaining is being set at Queen’s Park with Premier Kathleen Wynne’s ill-advised plan to sell LCBO products in grocery stores,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “This is creeping privatization and if it’s allowed to move ahead unchecked, it will mean the end of the LCBO as we know it.”

“OPSEU members are fighting to save the LCBO,” continued Mr. Thomas. “We are asking all Ontarians to support our fight. The LCBO is a public asset that funds all the public services we depend on, from home care to highways. We have to save it.”

The OPSEU collective agreement at the LCBO expired on March 31, 2017.

According to the Ministry of Labour website, it is legal to strike or lock-out beginning 17 days after the labour minister mails a “no board” notice.

Previous strikes at the LCBO have been averted even after no-board reports have been issued, so it may not be time to stock up on your favourite tipple just yet.