OPSEU Liquor Board Employees Division

Collective Bargaining Bulletin Issue #7 – May 8, 2009


Union team asks members for strike vote

“To get what we need in bargaining, we need members to step forward and show their support”


Your OPSEU bargaining team is asking members to deliver a strong strike vote May 20-22 to force the LCBO to bargain seriously.

“After more than 20 days at the bargaining table, the LCBO has failed to come to terms with its responsibility to protect and provide good jobs and allow our members to live decent lives,” bargaining team chair Vanda Klumper said today. “We need good jobs, our families need good jobs, and our communities need good jobs,” she said. “To get what we need in bargaining, we need members to step forward and show their support by giving us a strong strike mandate.

“That’s what will make this employer listen. The LCBO’s astonishing profits mean this employer can easily afford to do the right thing.”

Employer steps up attack on permanent staff

The last straw for the OPSEU bargaining team came last week. On Tuesday, the employer tabled a document entitled, “Short Term Layoff of Less than 90 Days: Employer Guidelines.”

The LCBO has now confirmed to us that it intends to make use of short-term layoffs for permanent full time and permanent part time staff,” said Vanda Klumper. “If we do not defeat their latest proposal, it will be the death knell for the permanent full-time job at the LCBO.”

Imagine you are a PFT or PPT with the least seniority in your workplace. The LCBO says short-term layoffs would work as follows:

  • As the PFT or PPT with the least seniority in a given establishment (store, warehouse, or office), you would be laid off.

  • You would not be able to bump a less senior worker in another store, warehouse, or office.

  • You would retain your health and life insurance benefits while laid off.

  • Despite being laid-off, you could still be assigned to work – just not full-time. For example, you might work a few days per week, or several partial-day shifts per week.

  • The employer would not have to offer you full-time work before assigning hours to your permanent part-time, seasonal, or casual co-workers. While on short-term layoff, you would not be a full-time worker.

“This proposal is a direct attack on every single permanent staff member at the LCBO,” says Vanda Klumper. “You would have the health benefits of a PFT or PPT but the hours of work of a casual. Seniority would offer little or no protection. Everyone would be at risk of losing work.”

“This proposal has nothing to do with laying off full-timers because of any shortage of full-time work,” Klumper said. “It’s about reducing full-time hours because full-timers cost more.”

The LCBO has not proposed any limit on how many times in a year a permanent staff member could receive a short-term layoff, Klumper noted.

“It is easy to imagine the LCBO laying people off from January to March and then doing it again in September-October,” said Klumper. “This would affect your income, your pension, and the date you can afford to retire.

“If the LCBO has its way, full-timers will be subject to the same ‘creative scheduling’ that prevents casuals from getting full-time hours and full-time jobs.”

Bizarrely, the LCBO is not proposing to include the guidelines in the collective agreement. Instead, they would be outside the collective agreement and the LCBO could change them at any time.

“We are in collective bargaining to have a say in the workplace,” said Klumper. “The rules that cover our lives at work are going to go in the collective agreement, and they must be rules that we can live with.

“That is why member support is so important right now, and that is why we are asking members to give us the strongest possible strike vote. We can win this.”

Strike vote Q & A

1.      If we vote yes in a strike vote, does this mean we are going on strike?

No. When you vote yes to a strike vote, you are giving your team a mandate to call a strike if necessary. That does not mean they will call a strike. The team’s goal is to get a fair deal without a strike.

2. Why is it important to have a high strike vote and high voter turnout?

The higher the strike vote, and the higher the turnout, the more power your team will have at the bargaining table. As a general rule, the higher the strike vote, the less likely it is that there will be a strike. Real bargaining happens when employers know that the union team has the full support of its members.

3. Has the OPSEU team set a strike deadline?

No. The bargaining team’s plan is to return to the bargaining table after May 22 to re-start negotiations.

4. When and where will the strike vote be held?

The strike vote will be held May 20 – 22 at close to 40 locations around Ontario. Vote details will be available on the OPSEU web site and will also be sent out by mail.

5. Where can I get more information before I vote?

This edition of Bargaining Bulletin contains the key issues at stake at the bargaining table. In addition, OPSEU bargaining team members will be on hand for 65 information meetings around the province to tell members what has happened at the bargaining table and to discuss the strike vote.

All the big issues remain on the table

There has been very little progress at the bargaining table since talks began eight weeks ago. The following is a broad-strokes summary of where bargaining is at right now.

The fight for good jobs for casuals

The LCBO’s new attack on permanent jobs is only the most recent move in a long-term cheap labour strategy.

Thirty years ago, all front-line staff at the LCBO were permanent; today, barely 40 per cent are.

Before 1996, there were no “fixed term” jobs at all at the LCBO; last December, $10-an-hour fixed term workers made up more than 30 per cent of the OPSEU bargaining unit.

Right now, 96 per cent of OPSEU members with less than five years’ service at the LCBO are casual or seasonal; less than four per cent have permanent jobs.

This is the wrong direction. Even though the LCBO insists that casuals be available to work all day, every day, many still can’t get enough hours to live on. And instead of helping these workers get benefits, the LCBO is attacking benefits for all OPSEU members by calling for reduced benefit costs and getting rid of the Joint Insurance and Benefit Committee.

OPSEU members do not accept that one of the richest companies in Canada cannot provide goods jobs with benefits to all of its workers.

In addition to wrecking permanent jobs through short-term layoffs, the LCBO wants to make it even less likely that casuals will get permanent jobs. By changing the rules for the Permanent Vacancy Review (see the March 17 Bargaining Bulletin), the LCBO wants to make it next to impossible for a casual to get a permanent job except through favouritism.

PFT and PPT jobs must be protected – and improved. Seasonal and casual workers must have permanent jobs with the wages, benefits, and job security they deserve. When we succeed, we’ll reduce the financial incentive for the LCBO to cut back on permanent jobs.

Your OPSEU bargaining team is pushing for more and better PFT and PPT jobs, improvements to any casual or seasonal jobs that remain, and an end to the Fixed Term classification which traps people at $10 an hour.

Job security: still too insecure

A good job lets people plan for the future. There is no reason a job can’t be just as long-term as the work being performed. As the chief seller of beverage alcohol in this province, the LCBO could provide excellent job security for its employees. That’s because alcohol consumption continues to increase in Ontario – through good times and bad.

Yet at the bargaining table, the LCBO is demanding less job security for OPSEU members.

As reported in the March 17 Bargaining Bulletin, the LCBO wanted to remove all the language in the collective agreement that protects staff from job loss through privatization and contracting-out.

On this front, the LCBO has moved. It has withdrawn its proposal to delete the two sections (p. 185 and p. 188 of the collective agreement) that would help you find a job or get enhanced severance and training if your job is privatized. It has also withdrawn its proposal to delete the Letter of Agreement (p. 211) that provides some protection against job loss caused by Agency Stores.

The LCBO had also demanded that OPSEU members give up contract protections related to technological change. The LCBO has dropped part of this demand. Permanent staff will still receive the notice of technological change included in Article 49, but seasonals and casuals won’t.

None of these changes is a contract improvement, of course; the LCBO is merely agreeing not to take them away. The LCBO is still insisting on wiping out the protections against contracting-out that are included on p. 212 of the collective agreement. That language says that “there shall be no new contracting out of work that is usually performed by members of the bargaining unit, if a layoff of any permanent full-time employees results….” The LCBO wants this protection gone.

No respect for seniority

For decades, unions have used the principle of seniority to ensure that workers are treated fairly in the workplace. Seniority recognizes an employee’s service and ensures that favouritism is not a factor when it comes to shift schedules, training opportunities, job competitions, and so on.

Unfortunately, the LCBO believes in favouritism – which is why the company is attacking seniority. As reported in the March 17 Bargaining Bulletin, the LCBO wants to:

  • cut permanent full-time employees out of many training and job opportunities;

  • let managers manipulate casual seniority to benefit their favourites; and

  • remove seniority as a factor in job competitions for casuals.

And when it comes to pay for seasonals, the LCBO says they shouldn’t move up the pay grid automatically; they’ll only get pay raises “contingent on satisfactory performance and recommendation from supervisor.” In other words, through favouritism.

When seniority is ignored, those who play by the rules get the short end of the stick. At Head Office, for example, managers have dodged the rule against hiring relatives by hiring each other’s. When it comes to jobs and promotions, outside candidates leap to the front of the line while loyal employees who don’t have “pull” find themselves stuck. Workers without connections have no way to get ahead or even to move laterally to a more satisfying job..

This is wrong.

Some LCBO managers ignore seniority for personal reasons. But they also do it for financial reasons.

For example, casual shifts are supposed to be assigned based on seniority. Yet the LCBO’s own numbers show that, on average, casuals hired before Sept. 1, 2002 actually work fewer hours than those hired after Aug. 31, 2002. In 2008, the senior group of casuals averaged 943 hours per year, while the junior group averaged 1,256 hours per year.

The reason for this is obvious: At the LCBO, casuals hired after Aug. 31, 2002 make at least $2 an hour less than those hired before. LCBO managers are bringing in more and more new casuals and moving as many hours as possible to these lower-paid workers.

In the name of fairness, seniority must be respected. Your bargaining team is committed to fair treatment for all OPSEU members at the LCBO.

Safe and healthy workplaces

A good job shouldn’t make you sick. It certainly shouldn’t injure or kill you. Protecting health and safety is a major concern at the LCBO, where OPSEU members do some of the heaviest and most dangerous work there is. Loading and unloading trucks, stocking shelves, and punching away at cash registers and computers all take a toll on people’s bodies. Ergonomic work arrangements, rest periods, and accommodation for injured workers are essential elements of a safe and healthy workplace.

To date, the LCBO’s only positive move on health and safety at the bargaining table is to agree not to make all new employees buy their own safety footwear. This is not an improvement; it just leaves things as they are.

Staffing levels are a keystone of workplace safety. Understaffing adds to the physical and mental stress of every job, and in some cases – like working alone in Retail – it is downright dangerous. Your OPSEU bargaining team is calling for safeguards for working alone and minimum staffing levels for all workplaces.

Sometimes the greatest threat to your health at work comes from other people. Your OPSEU bargaining team is calling on the LCBO to adopt the provisions against harassment and bullying that the union has bargained into other contracts.

Unions have a very good reputation on the issue of health and safety, and for good reason. But the employer wants to put you in danger by getting rid of the joint Provincial Safety Committee included in Article 32. The LCBO wants to remove your union’s right to be involved in protecting you from illness or injury. This is not acceptable.

Time off and control of your time

A good job gives you time off to spend with family and friends and to pursue interests outside of work. It also lets you know when you will be working well in advance so you can plan activities.

The LCBO wants to own your time, all the time. The company seems completely unaware that most workplaces and schools still operate on a Monday to Friday week, and the traditional Saturday-Sunday weekend is still important to most people. In Retail, the LCBO wants to reduce the number of Saturdays off for full-timers. In Logistics, the LCBO wants to change the work week to a six-day week (Monday to Saturday). Getting two days off in a row could become very difficult.

In Retail, the two-hour call-in is a home-wrecking time thief. Some OPSEU members spend nearly as much time commuting to work as they do working! Many casuals have simply never had a vacation, paid or unpaid. Some work seven days a week for months on end to survive.

This is no way to live. Your bargaining team knows how important your time is. That’s why we’re bargaining to protect free time by demanding fairer scheduling, real weekends, and a minimum four-hour call-in time. We’re bargaining for (more) vacation time to restore your energy, boost your productivity, and help people with kids bring them up properly.

We are also bargaining for a Compressed Work Week option. Many full-timers’ lives would allow them to work four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days per week (for example) and they should be allowed to do so.

Making sure your pension will be there

Every worker has a right to retire from a job and have an acceptable standard of living in their “golden years.” A good job means a secure pension plan and adequate income at retirement.

By moving to a casual workforce, the LCBO has reduced the number of people who are paying into the OPSEU Pension Trust pension plan. A strong pension plan needs members. Having more permanent jobs at the LCBO is not only good for the people who get those jobs; it’s good for all of us.

A voice at work

The LCBO’s approach to its employees is simple: “Father knows best.” This employer has little interest in building a respectful working relationship with its workers or their union.

When you have a good job, you have a voice in the workplace. Yet many of the LCBO’s proposals at the bargaining table are aimed at getting the union to shut up. As noted in the March 17 Bargaining Bulletin, the LCBO wants to be able to fire you “for certain offences” without recourse to the grievance process. But the LCBO also wants to stop you from having a union representative in the room in any meeting that could result in discipline.

In addition, the LCBO still wants to make it harder for OPSEU members to take time off for union business, i.e., your business.

Your bargaining team’s goal is to make your union a strong presence in the workplace – so your rights at work are respected.

Meet your mobilizers!

OPSEU mobilizers are your co-workers at the LCBO. They’re the direct link between you and your bargaining team. The following people are assigned as mobilizers in the OPSEU locals indicated.

Guy Jeremschuck: Local 162

Dave Holmes: Local 163

Mike Robertson: Local 164

Mike Sullivan: Local 165

Bonnie Jolley: Local 284

Paula Sossi: Local 285

Deb Altoft: Local 286

Shawn Swayze: Local 287

Matt Savelli: Local 287

Frank Gullace: Local 288

Maria Bauer: Locals 375, 376

Doug Parks: Locals 377, 378

Eileen Allen: Local 379

Terri Taylor: Locals 497, 498

Devon Ford: Locals 499, 4100

Kevin Ramsay: Locals 5107, 5110

Roberto Ianni: Locals 5108, 5111

Craig Hadley: Locals 5109, 5110, 5111

Mellisa Jackson: All Locals in OPSEU Region 6

Anne Makela: All Locals in Region 7

Your bargaining team

The OPSEU bargaining team for the Liquor Board Employees Division consists of seven members:

Vanda Klumper, Chair, OPSEU Local 165 vklumper@rogers.com

Denise Davis, Vice-Chair, Local 378 djdcones@yahoo.ca

Dora Robinson, Local 376 dora.robinson@gmail.com

Tracy Vyfschaft, Local 377 tcshaft@xplornet.com

Lori Davis, Local 499 loridavis@xplornet.com

Colleen MacLeod, Local 5107 colleenmacleod@opseu5107.org

Laurie Miller, Local 682 lauriem3@sympatico.ca

The bargaining team is assisted by OPSEU Senior Negotiator Rob Field, Senior Researcher Joyce Hansen, and other assigned staff.

Stay informed

As negotiations pick up speed, make it your priority to stay on top of bargaining news.

1. Attend upcoming bargaining information meetings

2. Receive this bargaining bulletin (and our regular newsletter, the Echo) directly by e-mail. Just call OPSEUdirect at 1-800-268-7376 or (416) 443-8888 and give the operator your name and e-mail address.

EAP Hotline: 1-800-263-1401

The LCBO Employee Assistance Program is a confidential, hassle-free counseling service for eligible LCBO employees and their immediate families. For assistance, call 1-800-263-1401.

Your 2009 Bargaining Bulletin is authorized for distribution by:

Vanda Klumper, Chair,
Liquor Board Employees Division

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President, OPSEU
Ontario Public Service Employees Union