Ontario set to go 'dry' as long weekend approaches

LCBO workers represented by OPSEU set up strike headquarters with Friday deadline looming

With Canadians ready to embrace the unofficial start of summer with the Victoria Day weekend, Ontario is set to turn into one massive “dry county.”

That’s because unionized workers at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) are posed to strike on May 17, which has led the LCBO to deliver the following message to Ontarians: “Stock up early.”

“In advance of the first long weekend of the summer, customers are encouraged to shop early for the best product selections,” said Bob Clevely, senior vice-president of retail operations for the LCBO. Customers can “avoid any possible service disruptions by shopping our stores early and stocking up.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the union is working towards reaching a reasonable settlement at the bargaining table in advance of Friday’s strike deadline.

“To reach an agreement, the LCBO must address the inequities of part-time work,” he said. “So far, the LCBO is ignoring the glaring wage and scheduling issues for part-time staff. That is unacceptable to us.”

There is no reason for part-time workers to be making less money as full-time employees who perform the same work, he said.

“There is no reason for part-time workers to go week to week without a schedule, and then only work a few hours. These members have a serious responsibility controlling alcohol sales for a corporation that earns more than $4 billion a year. We can easily reach an agreement that is reasonable for our members and the people of Ontario,” said Thomas.

Earlier this week, OPSEU opened up strike headquarters in seven communities across the province. The message from workers to the corporation was “$1.6 billion in pure profit: You can afford to do better.”

The union is planning to open an additional 26 strike headquarters across Ontario throughout the week.

“The question is, ‘What kind of an Ontario do we want?’” said OPSEU mobilizer Craig Hadley. “When it comes to jobs, do we want an Ontario where people are forever scrambling to make a living out of two or three part-time, temporary jobs with no benefits, no job security and no way to save for retirement?”

OPSEU said two-thirds of LCBO workers are casuals with no guaranteed hours, few benefits and an average income less than $26,000 per year.

There has never been a strike in the 87-year history of the LCBO. The Beer Store is separate from the LCBO and would be unaffected by the job action.

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