Tim Hudak"s plan to privatize the Liquor Control Board of Ontario could destroy as many as 10,000 jobs across the province, says the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
And women — who make up the majority of employees at the LCBO — could be hit hardest by the job losses that will affect dozens of communities across Ontario.
"How many times are we going to go down this same, old path of selling off the incredibly profitable LCBO?" asked Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of OPSEU which represents 7,000 full- and part-time jobs at the LCBO. That number grows closer to 10,000 when seasonal hiring at Christmas-New Year"s and the summer months are included.
"Mike Harris tried it and he backed off. Dalton McGuinty tried it and he backed off. Why did both of them back away from privatizing the LCBO? Because the people of Ontario have told the government over and over again they want the LCBO to stay in public hands," said Thomas.
In the LCBO"s last fiscal year, the provincial crown agency had revenues of close to $5 billion and returned a dividend of more than $1.6 billion to the provincial treasury — more than $2 billion including taxes — to pay for health care, education and infrastructure.
Thomas noted Hudak"s statement made no reference to the role the LCBO plays in protecting the health and safety of Ontarians through a strict policy of social responsibility which prohibits minors, those intoxicated and third-party purchasers from buying spirits, wines and beer at retail outlets. Last year alone LCBO sales staff challenged more than 1.2 million would-be customers for reasons of social responsibility.
"Tim Hudak is crossing his fingers, closing his eyes and hoping that private retailers will exercise the same degree of social responsibility as the LCBO does," said Thomas. "But the evidence from other jurisdictions, like Alberta, points in the opposite direction. When the profit-motive is at stake, private retailers would prefer to make a sale than to protect the health and safety of their communities."
Denise Davis, chair of the liquor board employees division of OPSEU, said the majority of LCBO employees are women — many of whom hold down one or more jobs in addition to their LCBO work — and they will be hardest hit by Hudak"s plan to eliminate thousands of jobs in towns and cities across Ontario.
"More than 60 per cent of LCBO employees are women, many of whom are lucky if they can get 10 or 15 hours a week of casual employment at a retail outlet," said Davis. "In many communities they are their family"s sole income earners. Why does Tim Hudak want to kill off these jobs that help build strong communities?"
She said Hudak"s plan also threatens to destroy good jobs and family farms in the wine industry that is located in his own riding in the Niagara Peninsula.
"Does anyone believe that private retailers will carry many brands of Ontario wines, produced from Ontario grapes?" she said. "They"ll stock the most popular off-shore brands and dramatically weaken the Ontario wine industry in the process."
Thomas said the liquor board employees successfully fought back against Harris" plan to privatize the LCBO 15 years ago and would do so again if Hudak were to form a future provincial government.
"My union looks forward to working with groups like MADD, police associations and health care workers, among others, in fighting against any plan to privatize the LCBO or put beer and wine in corner stores. We will put the full resources of our union behind this campaign."
Warren (Smokey) Thomas President, OPSEU,613-329-1931
Greg Hamara, OPSEU Communications, 647-238-9933