Residents of Ontario have been warned by the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) to stock up their liquor cabinets before a potential this coming May 17 – a long weekend – strike of unionized LCBO employees.
While over the weekend both the LCBO and OPSEU were at the bargaining table to negotiate a new contract for the roughly 7,000 unionized liquor board employees, OPSEU President Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas lamented to OurWindsor in a telephone interview that negotiations are not coming along well.
“We want to bargain our contract and not [strike] but the problem that we’re facing is that the employer tenaciously [made proposals] at the bargaining table that know, or any reasonable person would know, that union couldn’t get ratified,” said Thomas. “As long as they’re hanging onto that, the prospect of a deal isn’t so good.”
Thomas explained that the union has two main points of contention with the LCBO’s offers so far: wages have been frozen by the premier and as such, raises would not be permitted and new hires are expected to start two-steps lower on the pay grid.
According to Thomas, OPSEU has filed a Human Rights Complaint against the LCBO last week for violating the Human Rights Code by “treating one group of people in society differentially than another.”
For Thomas, the issue simply boils down to a matter of fairness in terms of providing employees who perform the same job function the same rate of pay.
“I had two different law firms and human rights lawyers look at this issue … we’re trying to bring some fairness into casual [and] part-time work, their schedules [and] what they get paid,” said Thomas. “We want the employer to sit down and honestly and earnestly look at these issues.”
Thomas finds the LCBO’s negotiating concessions “untenable” and explained that while he doesn’t want to see a strike, that the situation “is not going so well.”
OPSEU has launched a series of radio ads about the state of bargaining. The ads started running last Saturday and according to Thomas they will “increase in intensity and severity as the week wears on.”
“I don’t know if they’re just trying to make a point here,” extolled Thomas. “But we’ve got a premier who ran on [fairness, jobs and social justice] and we’re calling on her to stand up and be counted [on] and be just that.”
When asked what would happen come the May 17 strike date, Thomas expressed that he didn’t know, but that we was the “eternal optimist”.
“I hope we can bargain a deal. This time we’re not nearly as far along and the concessions are much more severe,” said Thomas. “They have to respond to the Human Rights Complaint sometime soon and maybe that’ll wake them up and if the premier reads that, maybe she’ll see what’s really going on here isn’t fair.”
“I hope there’s not a strike, but to the citizens of Ontario, I don’t know, you might want to stock up,” said Thomas.
At the time of publication, The LCBO had not responded to multiple media requests.
UPDATE: As of 5/16/2013 at 10:18am, The LCBO was unable to provide a statement as they have put in place a media blackout. More details to come.
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.