Good jobs or Walmart jobs? Privatization expansion by Liberal government shows true colours
Any doubt that the Liberal government was behind LCBO management’s slash-and-burn approach to bargaining was eliminated this week when they announced the locations they had chosen for the expansion of private alcohol sales.
With Walmart taking more than a third of the new private licenses, the Liberals have made a public statement about the future they see for Ontario jobs. This future looks a lot more like the low-wage, precarious, non-union jobs at Walmart than the decent, middle-class jobs the LCBO should offer.
Based on what’s going on at the bargaining table, the senior executives at the LCBO have clearly been given similar marching orders. If accepted, management’s proposals would strip so much out of the existing collective agreement that many workers might find themselves having a hard time telling the difference between their job and one at Walmart.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether the public will go along with this plan for the future of work in Ontario. With no more bargaining dates until June 5, the bargaining team, mobilizers, and members will be fanning out across the province and offering the public a clear choice: the middle-class jobs the LCBO should offer that communities across Ontario need, or the Walmart jobs the Liberals are offering.
Following a strong 93 per cent strike vote from members, the team went back to the table with high hopes. Over the last two and a half weeks, we’ve had eleven days of bargaining with the additional assistance of the conciliation officer. We were hopeful that this stretch of focused days would bring the teams closer to an agreement.
However, we realized this week that things are not as they seem.
We have suspected for a while that the Liberals are pulling the strings on LCBO management at the bargaining table, and this week confirmed it for us. On May 9 we heard about the Liberals’ announcement of the expansion of private alcohol sales. That, combined with management’s continued anti-worker demands at the table, made it crystal clear that the vision that the Liberal government had for the LCBO wasn’t anything like the better LCBO that we’ve proposed.
Instead, their vision seems to be a race to the bottom, with the government setting up new competitor like Walmart, and then directing LCBO management to use that competition to justify attacking workers’ rights.
But as much as that might be what the Liberals want, I don’t think that’s what the public wants.
Just look around – inequality and the growth of precarious work are becoming increasingly important issues. Do you think that the growing number of people calling on the government to improve the minimum wage and do something to reduce precarious work are going to be happy to see the government pushing for more Walmart jobs and fewer jobs you can actually raise a family on?
But there’s a silver lining in the May 9 expansion news. It has made very clear what we need to do now.
This isn’t about conversations at the bargaining table any more, as it’s increasingly clear that we won’t get a fair deal until the government is forced to agree to one.
Instead, over the next few weeks our job is to go out to the public in each and every community we work in and talk to them about what we’re facing. It’s time to show them the difference between the Liberals’ vision for a more Walmart-like LCBO, and our vision for a better LCBO.
And then, when we go back to the table in June, we’ll do so with the people of Ontario standing with us. Hopefully, the LCBO makes the right choice and comes back to the table ready to reach an agreement that can work for everyone, rather than continuing to act as a puppet of the Wynne government. But if not, we need to make sure that the LCBO’s political masters understand the public price they will pay if they continue down this road. We know what we need to do. Together, we can save the LCBO – not just the LCBO we have, but the better LCBO that you and I know is possible.
Chair, LBED bargaining team
Taking our message to the public
Team calls for information pickets across the province With no more bargaining dates in May, bargaining team members are fanning out across Ontario to join mobilizers and members at information pickets throughout the province.
“We have a plan to deliver a stronger and better LCBO,” said Denise Davis, bargaining team chair. “This plan will provide job security for workers, meaningful shifts for casuals, an end to staff working alone, time with family, and it will make sure that union workers are doing union jobs.”
“Now we’re asking members to join us at these pickets to help share this plan with the public. Together we can save the LCBO.”
Information pickets are currently being planned across the province, and will be added to the list of bargaining events on the website at www.opseu.org/LBEDbargaining as they are confirmed.
We Own It joins the fight
The We Own It campaign has added their voice to those calling on the province to stop their privatization of alcohol sales. In their new webpage on this issue, We Own It highlights the importance of the LCBO’s revenue for Ontario, and looks at the Alberta experience, where privatization led to a significant drop in public revenues, despite some of the highest alcohol prices in the country.
We Own It has set up their page with an online tool that allows Ontarians to show their support – if you haven’t yet, go to their page and add your name to show your support for keeping the LCBO public. Then share it with your family, friends, and everyone you know who wants to preserve these important revenues – and these important jobs.
Meet your mobilizers!
In collective bargaining, power comes from the support of union members. Experience has shown that employers move at the bargaining table when members take action inside and outside the workplace. To help build that power, OPSEU has booked off 15 mobilizers, elected by LBED members at your Pre-Bargaining Conference in April 2016. These mobilizers, who are your co-workers at the LCBO, are on union leave, starting Monday, February 27. They will work to build support for your elected bargaining team and the bargaining priorities you selected during demand-setting.
Meet your bargaining team
The OPSEU bargaining team for the Liquor Board Employees Division consists of five members:
Denise Davis, Chair, Local 378
Colleen MacLeod, Vice-Chair, Local 5107
Jennifer Van Zetten, Local 162
Robin Reath, Local 163
Mark Larocque, Local 499
The bargaining team is assisted by OPSEU Negotiator Jeff Weston, Researcher Steve Crossman, and other assigned staff.
Contact us by email at LBEDbargaining@opseu.org
You can receive this bargaining bulletin (and our regular newsletter, the Echo) directly by e-mail. Just call OPSEU at 1-800-268-7376 or (416) 443-8888, and give the operator your name and e-mail address.
You can also watch for updates on the OPSEU website at www.opseu.org/LBEDbargaining. And be sure to attend upcoming bargaining information meetings in your area.