TORONTO—LCBO workers have delivered a 93 per cent vote to strike, but their union will return to the bargaining table.
The vote, held April 24 and 25, was announced April 4 after what the worker’s bargaining team described as management’s “complete lack of respect for workers.”
Job security, scheduling, and health and safety are key points of concern for the 7,500 LCBO staff represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the OPSEU, said he hopes the result of the strike vote will “wake up this management team to the reality of the situation.”
Thomas continued, “The fact is, these members are fighting to save this important public asset. The people of Ontario built the LCBO, paid for the LCBO and own the LCBO. We’re not about to let the Wynne government destroy it through this piecemeal privatization.”
The union has long railed against the provincial government’s move to sell beer, wine and cider in grocery stores, calling it “creeping privatization.”
There are 130 grocery stores in Ontario now selling beer and cider, with 70 of those also selling wine, and the government intends to expand that to up to 450.
The OPSEU bargaining team will now return to the table with a strong mandate from their members, said Denise Davis, the team’s chair.
“In all the rounds of negotiations I’ve been involved in, I’ve never seen the members this fired up,” said Davis.
She continued, “If we agreed to the employer’s demands, it would be lose-lose, both for the workers at the LCBO and for the people of Ontario who depend on the revenues from a strong LCBO to pay for everything from highways to home care.”
“LCBO management has a decision to make. They can work with us and our team’s proposals to improve and safeguard the LCBO, and make it the great public asset it has the potential to be, or they can continue to push for the weaker, and meaner, LCBO the Liberals seem to want,” said Thomas.
The OPSEU collective agreement with the LCBO expired on March 31, 2017.
This labour dispute has arisen despite the LCBO agreeing to create a single wage grid for both full-time and casual retail workers in November 2016, an agreement finalized in February that was spurred on by a human rights complaint filed by the OPSEU.