Newsletter

Echo 57 -- Message from the chair and more

Publication Date

Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 4:00pm

Message from the Chair

Well, it’s July! The weather has been gorgeous, and your bargaining team has been elected and is already hard at work in this pre-bargaining season. In the last issue of Echo, I commended all of you for your commitment to “Check 25.” And, as more and more grocery stores sell beer, cider and, soon, wine, I am very concerned about the level of diligence in checks being done there, the societal costs resulting from the expansion of alcohol sales and the safety of our communities - which is our number one concern.

We know grocery stores want beer and wine to increase the foot traffic into their stores. When profits are involved, it will be all too easy, after ringing in dozens of other items, for a person to simply ring in the six-pack of beer or bottle of wine without checking photo ID to confirm the consumer is 19 years or older. Have you seen the red t-shirts the cashiers are wearing in grocery stores? They read “cold beer.” The focus on selling groceries and food seems to be the least important thing in these stores.

Our commitment to social responsibility helps keep our communities safe. We absolutely know that. Our customers know that. Being able to purchase more booze doesn’t contribute to safe roads and communities, and this decision does not take into consideration the many people that suffer with addictions. This expansion is  flooding our communities with alcohol. Where are the safeguards for this? We aren’t getting any answers.

In all of this turmoil, I want you to know that your Divisional Executive is proud to fight for you. We work alongside you, all of us. We see, day-to-day, your commitment to providing the best-in-class customer service. Ensuring job security and sufficient numbers of staff to provide the best customer service have always topped our list of  concerns for workers in this union. But it gets harder to do that when the employer doesn’t staff our shifts sufficiently, doesn’t post vacancies, doesn’t follow through on its commitment to create 200 full-time permanent positions, and plays games with creative scheduling of hours, so our most vulnerable and dedicated casuals can’t accumulate the required hours to get full-time jobs or benefits. I say shame!

Follow us as we get set to mobilize all LCBO workers around the issues of protecting our communities, good jobs and preventing the expansion of alcohol sales in Ontario.

Stay tuned, and look for ways you can add your voice to the fight.

In Solidarity,
Denise Davis
Chair, Liquor Board Employees Division

Public system still the safest way to sell alcohol: experts

Alcohol is a dangerous substance. What’s the safest way to sell it?

OPSEU members have said for years that a public system – the LCBO – is the best way to go. And guess what? The experts agree.

At a conference in May, a forum hosted by the Working Group for Responsible Alcohol Retailing brought together experts from across Canada to weigh in on the issue. They were researchers; they were public safety advocates; they were mental health and addictions professionals; they were doctors and  nurses; and they were recovering alcoholics.

Despite differing backgrounds, they all agreed: the best way to reduce the harm from alcohol is by keeping the sale of it public.

Bringing the facts to light

OPSEU was a co-sponsor of the May 18 conference, along with seven other organizations: Arrive Alive DRIVE SOBER; the Ontario Nurses’ Association; Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving; the Ontario Public Health Association; the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario; United Food and Commercial Workers Local 12R24; and Unifor. The goal of the May 18 forum was to give participants the latest evidence on alcohol consumption and the best policies to reduce the harm it causes.

Tim Stockwell, Director at the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia, told participants that, when under-reporting is taken into account, Canadians are drinking  much more than they say they are, and are even drinking far in access of recommended limits.

Stockwell made a point of saying his talk was “really an ode to the Ontario government monopoly.” He argued that, “without the structure of a government monopoly, it’s much harder to do any real effective prevention.” He described a link between government monopolies and consumption. “Australia and the UK, where there’s 10-30 per cent higher consumption than in Canada, don’t have government monopolies.”

“Public health crisis”

“We’re looking at a public health crisis in Canada,” said keynote speaker Ann Dowsett Johnston, author of Drink: the Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. “Canadians have a love affair with alcohol,” she said, noting that more than three million Canadians drank enough in 2013 to be at risk for immediate harm, and at least 4.4 million were at risk of chronic health effects. Johnston stressed the need for more public education.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas noted that there has not been a comprehensive study of the social and health costs associated with alcohol since 2006, and that study, from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, was based on 2002 data. He was sharply critical of the Ontario government’s decision to change alcohol retailing in the province without having done the research on the costs of doing so.

“There is no question that alcohol consumption brings to society massive financial costs related to health care, traffic accidents, law enforcement, and lost productivity at work,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately, Ontario Liberals are putting beer and wine into grocery stores without even knowing the true costs of doing so. We’re liberalizing alcohol sales in Ontario without having done due diligence.”

Thomas called on the Ontario government to fund independent research into the costs, including the financial costs, of drinking.

“We are calling on the government to fund independent research into the net financial cost to government and society of alcohol consumption,” he said. “A half a million dollars, which represents roughly one hour of the LCBO’s profits when its stores are open, could fund that research."

OPSEU members bring “a unique perspective” to the topic of alcohol, Thomas said. “About 7,000 of our  members make a living selling alcohol. And at the same time, we represent thousands of workers whose job involves dealing with the effects of alcohol. These members work in health care, social services, courts and the correctional system. We take a professional interest in protecting the public, and our communities, from the harm that comes with drinking.”

Harm resulting from alcohol consumption is estimated to cost the province more than $5 billion a year in health care, criminal justice and lost work-time costs, Thomas said.

More privatization equals more harm

As Ontario plans to further privatize the sale of beer and wine, it is useful to take a look at the experience in other provinces.

There are three previous examples we can look to for insight on large scale privatization in Canada: Quebec, Alberta and B.C. In all three of these provinces, according to Dr. Robert Mann, senior scientist at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), people tend to drink more when the sale of alcohol is privatized. Increased consumption means the harms linked to alcohol rise as well.

These harms include drunk driving incidents, hospital visits, instances of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), criminal justice costs and missed work hours.

Minister had no answers

While all MPPs were invited to attend the forum, only one attended, Dipika Damerla, who at the time was  Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Damerla told the audience that the government was committed to finding “middle ground” between drinkers’ desire for convenience while also maintaining standards of safety and control. But when asked by an audience member, “How is increasing accessibility aligned with the government’s stated interests in control and safety?” Damerla was unable to answer directly. Instead, she sidestepped, saying that grocery stores selling alcohol would follow the same rules (including hours of sale) as the LCBO and Beer Store. Her answer ignored the problem of wider accessibility and its proven effect of  increasing consumption.

Conference chair Denise Davis closed out the conference. “We need to put the sale of beer and wine by private  retailers back on the agenda,” she said. “The evidence is there: if we’re going to make alcohol available, the safest way to do it is through a public retailer.”

See a video of highlights from the forum here

Liberals move ahead on privatizing alcohol sales

The Wynne government is moving ahead with its plan to sell more wine through private stores.

Grocery stores have until August 5 to submit bids to sell wine. A total of 70 authorizations will be granted. Wine could be on  grocery store shelves by October.

Beer has been sold in 60 grocery stores since December. Since then, there has been a drop of beer sales at the LCBO stores near grocery stores selling beer. Ultimately, the LCBO believes it could lose over half of its beer sales to grocery stores. The LCBO won’t say how much it could lose in  wine sales, but the stakes are high. The Crown corporation currently sells over 80 per cent of all the wine sold in Ontario.

The LCBO is owned by the people of Ontario. The profits that come from our sales go to pay for roads,  schools, hospitals, and other public services. Why is the government moving those profits to private hands?

A victory: grocery stores must follow Sandy’s Law

In the long battle against privatization of alcohol sales in Ontario, OPSEU can claim one victory: grocery stores now have to post signs warning women that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Under “Sandy’s Law,” establishments selling alcohol are required to post the signs. But when grocery stores started selling beer, they didn’t have to.

This issue was originally brought to OPSEU’s attention by the Hamilton FASD Network. The Network had tried contacting the government about the special treatment for  grocery stores, but got no response. OPSEU put out a news release on May 11, which spurred the Toronto FASD Coordinating Network to write to Premier Kathleen Wynne. In an open letter to Wynne, MPP Peggy Sattler, NDP Critic for Women’s Issues, voiced her concern as well: “This government’s laissez-faire approach is disconcerting, given that FASD is the leading known cause of preventable developmental disability in North America,” she said. “Protecting the public’s interests should be at the core of any government’s mandate.”

The Ontario Public Health Association also added their voice to the conversation. In a letter to the Attorney General  of Ontario, OPHA wrote that, in 2015, the Ontario Government, “found through a series of province-wide roundtables that public knowledge of FASD was ‘limited at best’, with many women and men being unaware of the risks of alcohol use before, during and after pregnancy.” Posting warning signs, OPHA said, is an important part of the provincial strategy to prevent FASD.

Eventually, the Liberals listened to their critics. Sandy’s Law will apply to grocery stores after all. On June 24, the government quietly filed a regulation requiring any grocery store authorized to sell beer, wine and cider to post the warning signs. This regulation came into effect July 1, 2016.

It’s unsettling to hear the Ontario government repeatedly tell us that it values social responsibility as it moves to privatizing alcohol sales across the province. They’ve said that grocery stores must follow strict controls when selling beer, wine, and cider. And yet they did not begin holding stores to the same standards as other usinesses selling alcohol until the community demanded it.

FASD is the leading known cause of brain damage among Canadian children and affects an estimated nine out of every 1,000 babies born in Canada. Children suffering from FASD can experience many learning and cognitive impairments which follow them their entire lives.

Human rights complaint heads to hearing stage

In 2013, OPSEU filed a complaint against the LCBO at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal on behalf of hundreds of retail casuals. In essence, the complaint accuses the LCBO of gender discrimination. After close to three years of research, discussions and requests for information, the complaint is moving to the hearing stage. The timeline is as follows:

  • August 31 – Both parties must submit their final witness list and order of appearance.
  • September 8 – Lawyers have a case management conference call with Vice-Chair Maureen Doyle to settle any outstanding procedural matters.
  • September 22 – Opening statements.
  • September 26 – Hearings begin.

Hearings continue on the following dates:

  • September 26, 27, 28, 29;
  • October 24, 25, 26, 27, 31;
  • November 1, 2,  3;
  • December 19, 20, 21;
  • January 24, 25, 26, 27 (2017);
  • February 28; March 1, 2.

The parties may still attempt to settle the matters in dispute through mediation, but if mediation does not happen  before the hearings begin, OPSEU will go straight to the hearings. The tribunal has made it clear that once the hearings commence, they will proceed through to conclusion.

How your union is fighting the sale of beer, wine and cider in grocery stores

Your union has campaigned hard against the sale of beer, wine, and cider in grocery stores.

Here’s what we’ve done lately:

  • Met with Wynne’s business advisor, Ed Clark, October 2014 to recommend ways to increase LCBO dividend, without privatization, October 2014
  • Polled Ontarians, February 2015
  • Established Working Group for Responsible Alcohol Retailing, March 2015
  • Produced lobby kit and lobby training of OPSEU members, April 2015
  • Produced buttons and postcards, “Not so fast, Kathleen,” April 2015
  • Presented to MPPs, Ontario Legislature, May 2015
  • Ran Food and Drink ad, “Our responsibility is to you,” June 2015
  • Distributed buttons to LBED locals, “Our responsibility is to you,” July 2015
  • Ran radio ads, Toronto and cottage country, July to September 2015
  • Ran radio ads, province-wide, French and English, October 2015
  • Presented to MPPs, Ontario Legislature, December 2015
  • Co-hosted Alcohol Policy Forum, May 2016

LBED Bargaining insert

Meet your bargaining team

We are gearing up for the next round of bargaining with the LCBO. Our collective agreement expires on March 31, 2017.

Your bargaining team was elected at the Pre-Bargaining Conference on Saturday, April 30. We are already gearing up for next year’s negotiations. In March, we conducted surveys across the locals to get your thoughts on what our demands need to be, and a summary report of these demands will be sent out soon. In August and September, we will be holding local meetings to identify demands for discussion at the final demand-setting meeting, and Jeff Weston will be our negotiator. He will be taking over the role for Mark Kotanen.

Meet the team representing you. We’re fighting for you, and we want your input!

Denise Davis

Chair - Local 378

I have been employed by the LCBO since 1983. First as a fixed term, then casual, then a full-time customer  service representative in retail, and then full-time warehouse worker in Logistics. Currently, I am administrative staff at the Durham warehouse. Going into bargaining, we have to protect what we have and increase the complement of full-time staff in all of our workplaces - Head Office, retail and logistics. The employer’s intent to cannibalize the full-time job positions needs to stop. Workers in any workplace should be given enough help to get the job done properly, effectively and, most of all, safely. People are breaking down; we hear this concern  loud and clear, and we have heard the demands of our members. This is why I ran for the bargaining team. I  know our permanent full-timers support all casuals and seasonals within the Liquor Board Employees Division of OPSEU. I’ve been an LCBO employee who has worked in retail and Logistics. I see the pace of work that is the norm in the workplace. I see the commitment that each of you has to your job because you care about your job, your customers and clients and the work that you do. But we just don’t have enough constant regular staff to get the work done well. This all really boils down to health and safety, and that needs to be a priority. Let’s get to the table.

Colleen MacLeod

Local 5107

I am a permanent full-time customer sales representative at store 426 in Toronto, and Local 5107 President and Divisional Executive Officer. I have been active within LBED since 2006. I ran for the bargaining team because I am sick and tired of the employer manipulating the collective agreement. We need to make the life of a casual better by getting them full-time jobs. I have experience from the last two rounds of bargaining and am keenly  aware of the language required to strengthen our agreement.

Mark Larocque

Local 499

I am a full-time employee at the Ottawa warehouse. I ran for the bargaining team so I could sit in front of our  employer and fight for a fair contract for all our members. I realize that this round of bargaining will be our  toughest yet, and I wanted to bring my fighting spirit to the team!

Robin Reath

Local 163

I am a product consultant in store 62 in St. Thomas. I am on the bargaining team because, like the others, I am concerned with job security. With the government pushing beer, cider and wine into the grocery stores, we will be  under increased pressure to make the employer more profit than ever before. Everyone’s goal is: next year  should be better than the last. Yet, our casuals are getting fewer hours while working more days. In August, I posted the number of weeks until Christmas. Under my post was “Buckle up, only two days off until Christmas.” For many casuals, those two days were Labour Day and Thanksgiving. Yet they never work enough hours to trigger a full-time position. There is only so long an activist can watch friends and co-workers struggle to make a living wage before stepping up to make a change.

Your mobilizers

Once bargaining starts, seven mobilizers, one per OPSEU region, will be booked off to help keep the members informed about the negotiations. The following mobilizers were elected at the Pre Bargaining Conference in April.

Guy Jeremschuk – Local 162
Bonnie Jolley – Local 284
Tracy Vyfschaft – Local 377
Dianne Perry – Local 497
Craig Hadley – Local 5109
Amanda Pellerin – Local 682
Rob Mithrush – Local 741

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