At what cost? Ford’s fast-tracked expansion of alcohol sales nothing but a corporate handout to big box grocers: OPSEU/SEFPO

OPSEU/SEFPO, the union representing LCBO workers, is reacting today to Premier Ford’s announcement that he is fast-tracking his “alcohol everywhere” plan that will make beer, wine, cider, and ready-to-drink beverages available for sale at participating convenience, grocery, and big box stores – starting in August.

“Earlier this spring Ford promised he’d never sell the LCBO, yet he’s clearly trying to sell us all down the river with this move,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick. “Expanding private alcohol sales is just the latest scheme to transfer public funds into the pockets of CEOs and Ford’s friends while further gutting our public services.”

The LCBO invests roughly $2.5 billion in revenues directly into public services like health care and education each year. Last week, the union launched an ad campaign and parody crowdfunding website for CEOs to raise awareness about what’s at stake. Thousands of Ontarians have already used the site to send the premier an email opposing his plans.

“It’s clear that Ford felt the heat and knew that LCBO workers were building a lot of momentum going into this round of bargaining and is trying to distract and intimidate us,” said Colleen MacLeod, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Liquor Board Employees Division (LBED) and the Bargaining Team. “We know Ontarians won’t fall for his tricks – not with billions of dollars on the line. As LCBO workers we know this isn’t just the fight of our lives, it’s a fight for everyone in Ontario.”

Last December, the Ford government announced they would not renew the Master Framework Agreement in 2026 and eliminate the cap on the number of grocery stores who sell alcohol beginning in January of that year. They also announced that at that time they would open the door to convenience stores and gas stations selling beer, wine, cider and pre-mixed drinks.

Ford announced today that this expansion of private alcohol sales will begin August 1 – more than a year ahead of schedule.

Today’s announced plan clearly contravenes the Master Framework Agreement, which is still in effect, unless they have reached side deals to break it. The financial consequences of such a deal – including one with the Beer Store worth $225 million – remain unclear. The union is demanding answers about how much this decision will cost Ontarians and why public funds are paying for rushed bad policy.

In the current round of negotiations with the LCBO, the union has made it clear that LCBO workers are prepared to fight back against Ford’s privatization plans and to protect good jobs in every community and the revenues the LCBO generates for generations to come.

LCBO workers will be taking a strike vote in the coming weeks.

OPSEU/SEFPO represents 180,000 public service workers in Ontario, including more than 9,000 LCBO workers.