Newsletter

Echo 58 October, 2016 -- Message from the chair and more

Publication Date

Friday, October 21, 2016 - 3:45pm

Message from the Chair

Hello, fellow members. I’m excited to share with you all of the work your Divisional Executive and local presidents have been doing in this prebargaining season:

  • Our Anti-Privatization Committee has helped members organize nine information pickets across the province.
  • OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and I held a press conference at Queen’s Park on August 30 to discuss our position on the future of cannabis sales.
  • Your union is continuing to lobby on the issue of post-retirement benefits.
  • We are working to update LCBO policies on harassment and discrimination.
  • And finally, the Provincial Labour-Management Committee, which is now represented by your bargaining team, has been working with LCBO management on provincewide issues that affect you (minutes from discussions at that table will be posted in the next few weeks in all  workplaces).

It’s been a busy few months!

I want to thank each of the members who hosted or participated in the information pickets. We held pickets in Windsor, Pickering, London, Toronto, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, and Mississauga. I can happily report that every picket was extremely well received by the public, and we gained a lot of public support for our campaign to stop the expansion of alcohol sales to grocery stores. We also collected hundreds of signed postcards addressed to the Premier, demanding that she stop the gradual privatization of the LCBO. Go to the OPSEU website to check out pictures and details from the events across the province.

You may have heard the conversations in the province surrounding how cannabis will be sold once the federal government legalizes it. OPSEU and your division are certain that the LCBO is the most qualified and safest way of selling the product. What’s more, a poll by Nanos Research (commissioned by OPSEU) found that the majority of Ontarians agree with us. Stay tuned as we continue lobbying on this issue.

In terms of the changes to post-retirement insured benefits, the struggle continues. Our position is clear: members of the OPSEU Pension Trust (OPTrust) pension plan should not be required to pay half the cost of premiums for their post-retirement benefits. In September, President Thomas wrote a letter to President of the Treasury Board Liz Sandals, pointing out how blatantly unfair the government’s plan is. He has also called on members of the OPTrust pension plan to step up their lobbying of local MPPs.

With respect to workplace harassment, we have achieved improvements in the workplace harassment policy and procedures to ensure that complaints are resolved in a way that is fair. Significant improvements to the process include:

  • timelines to speed up the process;
  • written notification at various stages to improve transparency; and
  • a written report on findings of investigations to provide accountability.

With these changes, the union will be better able to monitor complaints and represent members whether they are complainants or respondents where workplace harassment is alleged. There is still work to do on harassment in the workplace, but we’re moving in the right direction.

And finally, on November 5, our division will be holding its final demand-set meeting at the Eaton Chelsea hotel in Toronto. As outlined in Article 4.5 in the negotiating procedures, delegates at this meeting will discuss (and may amend) existing demands put forward by locals, adopt their final demands, and rank those demands by priority. This is the division’s opportunity to hammer out what our key demands will be in the coming round of bargaining towards a new collective agreement in 2017.

In Solidarity,

Denise Davis
Chair, Liquor Board Employees Division

Update on our anti-privatization campaign

By: LBED Anti-Privatization Committee

The threat of lost jobs and reduced hours in the future is real. As the expansion of beer and now wine into grocery stores continues, it will seriously impact the LCBO by cutting into retail sales. Job cuts or store closures could be the result.

Our division has been working hard to either stop this expansion, or at a minimum, to slow it down. Beer and cider are currently sold in 60 grocery stores province-wide. An additional 70 grocery stores will carry beer, cider, and wine, likely by late October. At least 450 grocery stores will be allowed to sell beer and wine in the future.

It is the position of OPSEU and our divisional executive that the expansion of alcohol into grocery stores is a slow and sneaky process of privatization. We all know there are harms and risks from the consumption of alcohol, and we all work hard to sell alcohol in a socially responsible manner. However, it is a fact that with the increased availability of alcohol comes increased consumption. And increased consumption will lead to a greater financial burden on the health care system, on law enforcement, and on workplaces due to lost productivity. And of course we can never forget the real human cost of alcohol-related harm on families, on children, and on communities.

The truth is that privatizing the sale of alcohol is bad public policy whether you look at it from a financial or health and safety perspective. The ultimate irony is that, by undermining the LCBO, the province will have less revenue to help pay for the increased health and social costs resulting from the privatization of alcohol sales.

To involve the public in our fight against the expansion of alcohol sales, we held information pickets around the province in the fall. We had very successful pickets in Windsor, Pickering, London, Toronto, Sudbury, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, and Mississauga. Our locals did tremendous work in organizing the pickets, and we have a lot of people to thank: the locals themselves; our OPSEU Executive Board Members, leaders from other sectors, and fellow members; and NDP MPPs Peter Tabuns and France Gélinas for attending our pickets in Toronto and Sudbury, respectively.

Our members have stood outside of LCBO stores, and spoken with members of the public as they enter or leave the store. We have asked the public a very simple question: “Would you like to sign a postcard asking Premier Wynne to stop privatizing the LCBO?” Over 90 per cent of those asked have signed a postcard. The message is clear: “Premier Wynne, nobody voted for you to privatize the LCBO.” Our plan is to send these signed cards to the Premier’s office to show her that the public is not in favour of privatizing the LCBO.

This campaign has been very successful, but it needs your help. If you would like to participate by having your local hold an information picket, please contact your local president. Your president can get in touch with the Anti-Privatization Committee Chair, Rick Woodall, at woodall@bellnet.ca.

Why is selling cannabis an issue for the LCBO?

The federal Liberal government has promised to legalize recreational cannabis by the spring of 2017. This means the province needs to create a distribution process and regulatory framework.

Currently, there are over 100 illegal dispensaries in the Greater Toronto Area, despite municipalities’ attempts to shut them down. They operate in an unregulated market, and do not test for product quality or safety. There are 32 licensed medical cannabis producers nationwide, and presently only Canada Post is authorized to distribute medical cannabis in the country. However, the Canadian recreational cannabis market is estimated to be worth $5 billion.

The government has stated its priorities clearly:

  • to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth;
  • to keep the profits out of the hands of criminals;
  • to reduce the burden on police; and
  • to establish a strict system of production and distribution regarding quality and safety, among other priorities.

OPSEU also believes the sale of cannabis must be strictly regulated. The LCBO is well-positioned to handle distribution and sale. It is a time-tested retailer of a controlled substance with a history of keeping Ontario communities safe. The LCBO is well-positioned to sell  cannabis because…

  1. LCBO employees take age checks seriously: 13.5 million ID checks were conducted last year and service was refused to close to half a million people, which minimized the  burden on police and limited youth access to alcohol.
  2. LCBO employees take customer safety seriously: Over half a million product quality and  safety checks were performed last year, which kept the public safe.
  3. LCBO employees are trained: Staff are knowledgeable in how to safely distribute and consume the products they sell, which serves to educate the customer on the risks and effects of the products they consume.
  4. The LCBO has a superior distribution network: A network of over 650 stores across the  province means all communities can minimize crime and benefit from recreational legalization simultaneously.
  5. The LCBO transfers a large dividend to the province: The Ontario cannabis market could bring in $1.9 billion in sales per year, which would help fund educational campaigns and addiction treatment programs the government has planned.

OPSEU commissioned a poll by the reputable pollster Nanos Research to investigate how Ontarians felt about cannabis in Ontario, and where they thought the best place for its sale is.

Some key results:

  • Ontarians prefer the LCBO: 40 per cent of Ontarians pick the LCBO as their first choice for selling cannabis; more than 60 per cent support the sale of cannabis through the LCBO.
  • Ontarians trust the LCBO to keep kids safe: 90 per cent of Ontarians are concerned about youth having access to cannabis; 30 per cent believe the government’s primary goal should be to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth.
  • Ontarians want to see cannabis sold in dedicated spaces: 65 per cent of Ontarians support a dedicated retail space within LCBOs to retail cannabis.

Cannabis belongs in the LCBO: What OPSEU has done so far…

  • January 8, 2016: Liberal MP Bill Blair, tasked by Prime Minister Trudeau with overseeing the process of legalizing cannabis in Canada, says provincial liquor stores may be the better choice for cannabis sales in Ontario.
  • May 26-27, 2016: President Thomas makes a presentation to the Canadian Cannabis Business Conference on why the LCBO is the ideal retail partner.
  • June 21, 2016: Kathleen Wynne agrees with OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas that an LCBO model for retailing cannabis makes sense.
  • August 26, 2016: OPSEU responds to the federal government’s Open Consultation on Cannabis Distribution.
  • August 30, 2016: Nanos Research releases a poll commissioned by OPSEU that shows a majority of Ontarians want the LCBO to retail cannabis.
  • August 30, 2016: President Thomas and Denise Davis, Chair of OPSEU’s Liquor Board Employees Division, hold a Queen’s Park press conference to discuss the poll results.
  • August 31, 2016: The Canadian Medical Association agrees the LCBO is the ideal place to dispense recreational cannabis and disapproves of pharmacies.
  • September 12-16, 2016: OPSEU participates in the Canadian Cannabis Business Conference in Vancouver, B.C., where we promoted the idea of selling cannabis through government-owned retail outlets.

The road ahead

There are still many questions surrounding the legalization of cannabis and who will be able to sell it. OPSEU will continue to promote the LCBO as the most socially-responsible option in Ontario. Members are encouraged to talk to friends, neighbours, and local politicians, and explain why the LCBO is the best choice. At the same time, the union will take advantage of opportunities to have input into federal and provincial legislation, as it has already been doing. We expect recreational cannabis to be sold legally in Ontario by 2018 – possibly sooner.

Sector 26 Liquor Board Employees Division Final demand-set meeting is November 5!

As outlined in Article 4.5, Section 18.10 of OPSEU’s negotiating procedures, delegates have been selected from each local to attend the final demand-set meeting for the upcoming round of bargaining between OPSEU and the LCBO. Delegates will discuss (and may amend) existing demands put forward by locals, adopt final demands, and rank them by priority.

When:   Saturday, November 5, 2016 from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Where: Eaton Chelsea Hotel Toronto
              Mountbatten Salon
              33 Gerrard Street West
              Toronto, ON, M5G 1Z4

Hard day’s work: OPSEU’s progress in health and safety at the LCBO

By: LBED Health and Safety Committee

The Provincial Health and Safety Committee (PHSC) continues to meet with the employer four times a year. Every meeting, we hear of various projects where the LCBO is trying out new cash stations and new equipment at various stores. However, they collect feedback on all those pilot projects without consulting health and safety representatives and committees. Numerous requests have been made to the LCBO that they involve relevant parties within the union. They have also been asked to participate in union projects examining ergonomic hazards in the workplace. The LCBO repeatedly declines.

Members in our division have tough, physical jobs. Injury and accommodations are through the roof. Did you know that we are four per cent of the OPSEU membership, yet we make up a quarter of all of OPSEU’s WSIB appeals? And WSIB is no cakewalk. Regressive WSIB policies blame injuries on age and pre-existing conditions, which means compensation is often denied to claimants. The LCBO’s approach to “preventing” claims make things even worse.

They use duty rosters meant to divide tasks among scheduled employees in a day as a way of rotating the heavy and repetitive work. However, dividing up the work does not address the hazards at their source. And the roster often can’t always be followed due to not having enough staff, or because many workers have work limitations from previous injuries. How long will it be until all workers get injured or suffer some kind of limitation? It is clear that the roster is not a successful measure in preventing the hazards and reducing injuries. It may, however, be a successful means to block LBED members’ WSIB claims. When workers try to make a claim with the WSIB, the employer counters by flashing the roster, claiming health and safety measures are being taken – and the claims get thrown out.

The LCBO also manages claims by offering return-to-work packages long before the employer even knows what the worker’s restrictions are. This “blanket” offer of return to work makes a mockery of what is supposed to be the individualized nature of accommodations. The strategy robs the worker of WSIB Loss of Earnings Benefits and disqualifies the worker from sick leave – all at the same time. The result? The worker is often at home, injured, without any pay. Those workers who return to work under these often defective accommodation plans often worsen their injuries or sustain new ones.

For these reasons, the Provincial Health and Safety Committee is hoping to develop a work plan this year that will help our members. In partnership with the University of Waterloo’s Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD), health and safety representatives and Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) members are using a  survey tool that helps workers identify physical load hazards in their workplaces. The survey has been sent out to LBED members to complete on their own time. Questions about the various kinds of loads or physical stresses on their members’ bodies such as lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, climbing, and awkward body positions produced the following results:

Workload graph

As you know, Section 8 (10) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act gives health and safety representatives the power to identify situations that may be a source of danger or hazard to workers and to make recommendations to the employer. And with hundreds of our members suffering from injuries sustained during the course of their job, this information will help the PHSC create Physical Demands Descriptions (PDDs) for the work we do. Committee members will be guided in the development of the PDDs by the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers’ Physical Demands Handbook. The PDDs will be a critical tool for joint health and safety committees and health and safety representatives to identify hazards and prevent MSDs.

The PHSC has made great headway in working to make jobs at the LCBO safer, and to protect the health of LBED members. Health and safety is a serious matter and often commonly ignored by employers. It’s important for members to take it seriously, and to know it is their right to do so.

An update on pensions and benefits for members of OPTrust

By: LBED Pensions and Benefits Committee

In 2014, the Ontario government announced changes to OPTrust which would require public employees (such as LCBO employees) whose pensions were managed by OPTrust or the

Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) to begin paying half the cost of the premiums for their post-retirement insured benefits. The change is set to take effect January 1, 2017. It will mean an extra cost of about $900 per year for single individuals, and a whopping $1,600 per year for retirees with family coverage. It’s a lot of money. And your union is as furious as you are. It’s like collecting rain in a bucket, anticipating a drought, and realizing there was a hole in the bottom. Only, this hole was put there deliberately by the Ontario government.

Your division has been telling the LCBO that our pensions must remain as they are, and that it is deplorable that long-term service employees stand to lose post-retirement benefits after  committing so many years to the company with the belief that those benefits were safe and secure.

In a letter to Treasury Board President Liz Sandals in September, President Warren (Smokey) Thomas called the Liberals’ decision to make these changes to members’ pensions “blatantly unfair.” 

Following the government’s announcement of its plan in January 2014, union members filed nearly 1,400 individual grievances on the matter, and OPSEU also filed a policy grievance. Preliminary hearings into the matter have been held, and further hearings are scheduled for April and May of 2017.  Many members are, rightfully, unsure of what to do now in planning for retirement. If you are eligible to retire this year, and you wish to avoid these potential changes, you must retire on or before November 30, 2016. For other members, our legal counsel advises that members should make decisions about retirement based on the facts in front of them now, and not on what may or may not happen  down the road.

OPSEU continues to fight these austerity measures by the Liberal government. In his letter in  September, President Thomas asked the President of Treasury Board for a meeting as soon as possible to attempt to resolve the matter face to face. But it’s a tough fight, and it requires action on part of everyone affected in order to have a real impact. President Thomas is calling on all  OPTrust members to step up lobbying of local MPPs around the issue of post-retirement  benefits. We must all ensure our elected officials know what’s happening, and know how serious those affected are about fighting it.

Feel free to contact your OPSEU Pension & Benefit Committee members with any questions!

Defending our rights

By: LBED Grievance Committee

The collective agreement spells out our relationship with the employer in the workplace. It is the result of hard work and, for us unionized workers, it’s the most important document we have.

We need to defend our members’ rights when there is a violation of the contract and remedy any harm. That is what the grievance procedure is all about. We all have a role to play in making the grievance process as effective and timely as possible. Your Grievance Committee advises stewards to keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Investigate promptly and gather all relevant documents. Get the facts of what happened. Interview the member. Listen with empathy and attentiveness. Speak to witnesses if there are any.
     
  2. Keep good notes. Write everything down at every stage of the process, from your interviews with members and witnesses to your stage two and three meetings with the employer.
  1. Keep all documentation in one file. It’s good practice to keep your notes, the employer’s written decision(s), and any disclosure from the employer in one file. Many stewards find it helpful to keep an electronic copy of their notes and all relevant paperwork.
  1. Ensure the complete file is sent from your OPSEU Regional Office to the Contract Enforcement Unit at OPSEU Head Office before the deadline to refer to arbitration.
  1. Follow the timelines. These timelines are spelled out for every stage of the grievance procedure in Article 28 of your collective agreement.

Keeping good records at the local level is a huge help to your elected Grievance Committee. Stay tuned for further information on good grievance-handling practices in the months ahead.

Human rights complaint update

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 three years of research, discussions, requests for information, and requests for mediation, the complaint has moved to mediation, with William Kaplan as the mediator. Mediation is scheduled for October 21, 22, and 23.

The intent of this process is to see if a mediated settlement is possible prior to going into the Human Rights Tribunal hearings. If we succeed, we will not need to go into the Tribunal hearings. If mediation does not succeed, then we will be going forward with hearings starting October 31, 2016.

Your union will continue to update you on the progress of our human rights complaint.

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