The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents more than 7,000 LCBO workers, has endorsed the Clark panel’s recommendation that the Crown retailer of spirits, wine and beer remain under public ownership.
“The recommendation put forward by Ed Clark and his fellow panelists that the LCBO remain government-owned and operated should, finally, put to rest the lingering debate over whether or not to privatize this very profitable and socially responsible Crown enterprise,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “With this recommendation, the panel joins with Premier Wynne, Finance Minister Sousa and the LCBO’s own workforce, the strong belief that to sell it off to the private sector would amount to a needless fire sale of a well-respected public asset.”
However, he questioned how the panel overlooked an obvious source of added revenue: the LCBO’s agency store program. Several independent studies in recent years have demonstrated that the provincial treasury is foregoing tens of millions of dollars annually by allowing the most profitable agency stores to remain privately-owned and operated.
Thomas agreed with the panel that any discussion over job classification and wages at the LCBO is best left to contract negotiations at the bargaining table.
But the OPSEU president also drew attention to the fact that his union is currently facing off against the LCBO and Queen’s Park in a challenge before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario over wages paid to the LCBO’s largely female retail workforce. The union argues that the LCBO discriminates against its own employees by deliberately classifying regular, year-round customer service workers as “casual” so it can pay them less than those classified as “permanent” workers. Both groups perform identical work at the LCBO’s retail locations.
“The LCBO and the Ontario government are, in our view, violating both the Ontario Human Rights Code and an ethical code,” said Thomas.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas