By a margin of 95 per cent unionized employees of the Liquor Board of Ontario have voted in favour of strike action if contract negotiations with Crown retail giant break down.
"That number should send a pretty powerful message to LCBO management that their own employees are profoundly dissatisfied with the pace of negotiations," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) which represents more than 7,000 LCBO retail staff, warehouse workers and head office employees.
"I"ve been a union activist for more than 30 years and seldom do we witness that kind of number on a strike vote, especially considering how many liquor board employees we represent. It"s one of the largest units in OPSEU."
The result tonight represents the end of two-days of voting by OPSEU members. Their four-year contract with the LCBO ended March 31. The two sides have been in bargaining since mid-February with almost no progress at the table.
Denise Davis, chair of the union"s bargaining team, said her workers are fighting to maintain and build good jobs for their families and for the communities in which they live and work.
"Regrettably, the LCBO seems to want to destroy the good jobs we"ve taken years to build," said Davis. "What we seek is a good quality of lives for our families, opportunities for our children and the ability to retire in dignity. We believe these are goals we share with everyone in Ontario."
Both Thomas and Davis said that by voting X per cent in favour of job action the union has no immediate plans to walk off the job. Contract talks with the LCBO are scheduled to resume April 10 and more bargaining dates are set for later this month and in May.
"Let"s be clear: we have no plans to take job action," said Thomas. "But let"s be clear about something else: we expect the LCBO to return to the bargaining table with a determination to negotiate those issues that our members have identified as most important to them but for which management refuses to discuss.
Issues for the union in this round of bargaining include wage and benefit improvements, job security, and improved health and safety standards.
Liquor board employees conducted successful strike votes in 2003 and 2009. In both instances the two sides reached agreement without a strike or lockout.
Greg Hamara OPSEU Communications 647-238-9933 mobile