TORONTO – Unionized workers at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario have given their bargaining team a strong strike mandate to back their fight for good jobs at the provincially-owned retailer.
In voting May 20-22, members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union voted 93 per cent in favour of strike action if necessary. Voter turnout was 3,672, a record high for the 6,000-member bargaining unit.
“This vote is a clear signal from our members that we will not accept the destruction of good full-time jobs at the LCBO and we will not let up in our drive for better lives for our casual members who are struggling to survive,” said Vanda Klumper, chair of the OPSEU bargaining team and a clerk at the LCBO store in Stratford, Ontario. “When we return to bargaining this Tuesday we’ll be telling the LCBO that it’s time to start taking the conversation seriously.”
The central issue in talks, which began March 9, is the LCBO’s attack on full-time jobs and its drive to run its operations with a casual workforce with lower pay, no guaranteed hours, no job security, and no benefits.
“Right now 60 per cent of members in our bargaining unit are casuals who earn less than $20,800 a year on average,” said Klumper. “People can’t live decently on that, they can’t bring their kids up properly on that, and they sure can’t think of ever retiring on that.
“An employer that boasts annual profits of $1.4 billion a year with so few employees has not just the ability but also the responsibility to provide good jobs in communities right across Ontario,” she said. “Instead, the LCBO wants to destroy the 2,400 good full-time jobs we do have and is proposing that not one of our members will have a guaranteed, full-time, full-year job. This is just wrong.”
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the LCBO workers, who joined OPSEU in 2005, have the full support of the union’s 120,000 members and its $50 million strike fund.
“This battle is not about our members, it’s about the kind of Ontario we want to live in,” he said. “People can’t survive on part-time, temporary, disposable jobs, and neither can communities.”
The collective agreement between OPSEU and the LCBO expired March 31, 2009.