There’s a chance that LCBO employees will be going on strike for Victoria Day weekend as 95% of unionized employees have voted in favour of striking and have set a deadline of May 17, the day before the Victoria Day weekend.
“We are still at the [negotiating] table and dates have been set through at least mid-May,” explained Heather Macgregor, media relations coordinator for the LCBO.
While negotiations began in February, Macgregor explained that so far there has only been roughly 17 hours of face-to-face bargaining.
“We are still focused on getting back to the table and getting a deal that’s fair to the employees but also to the taxpayers,” said Macgregor who declined to comment on how the negotiations were going.
“Given that there’s only been 17 hours and the union has kind of changed gears a little bit this week and has decided to hold a rally [and] about ten days ago they held a strike vote, our thinking is that the focus really should be at getting to the table and enough with these distractions,” said Macgregor who went on to stress that the union has the attention of management.
“They’ve said that these steps are necessary to get our attention, but the reality is, they have it,” said Macgregor. “We are at the table, we’re committed to staying there and getting a deal and we’d like to see a little bit more focus put there.”
Macgregor noted that the LCBO has a plan in place to provide some level of service to Ontarians in the event of a strike, however she was unable to explain what level of service would be provided.
“I’m not in a position to get into the details of that plan right now and frankly it’s not necessary because we’ve been here at least twice before,” said Macgregor.
In 2005 and 2009, the LCBO was in negotiations with the collective bargaining unit and reached the same stage the are in presently.
“In both of those instances we were able to negotiate a deal and we’re very optimistic that that’s going to happen this time,” said Macgregor.
“If you recall about two weeks ago when the government caved into teachers, [I] specifically said that they’d caved in and that given the fact that they’ve demonstrated that they don’t have the resolve to stand firm when cost control is an essential, that they were opening the door to 4,000 collective agreements, with various branches of the broader public sector, being questioned,” said MP Peter Shurman, PC Finance Critic.
Shurman believes that the Ontario Public Service Employee Union (OPSEU) which represents the 6,700 bargaining unit employees that the LCBO employs are building their strike campaign on the heels of a bitter labour tensions between the government and teachers’ unions.
“Why if you can change the rules of the game with teachers wouldn’t you be able to change them with anybody we said,” questioned Shurman. “Here’s Smoky Thomas, OPSEU and his LCBO workers saying ‘If you don’t sit down and work this out with us, you won’t be able to buy your LCBO products for May 24 weekend.’”
“If that’s not putting Ontarians up against the wall in the face of the collective strength of organized labour, just because it can, especially in a monopoly position, then I don’t know what is,” said Shurman.
Shurman explained that he is disappointed with Warren (Smoky) Thomas (the president of the OPSEU), OPSEU membership, LCBO employees and the Liberal government itself before noting that the government “will pay.”
When asked whether or not he believed that a strike would actually occur, Shurman responded, “Sure. Could there be a strike, I’m not a fortune teller … they’ve decided that they will if they don’t get what they want.”
Shurman believes that there is a need for better distribution of beer and wine in the province overall and pointed to his party’s recent whitepapers on alcohol delivery in the province as examples of what could be done.
“I still think that we need to look at better distribution for beer and wine … you can look at the [LCBO] wholesale, retail division [or] the whole thing,” said Shurman. “The jury is still out.”
“Right now the issue is we’ve got one place to buy liquor, we’ve got the greatest gateway weekend of the year coming, and that’s when our broader public sector workers are telling the Wynne government what it can and can’t do,” said Shurman.
Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.