Angered and frustrated by the LCBO proposed four-year wage freeze and a host of other claw backs from their current contract, more than 7,000 unionized liquor board employees will take an April strike vote to back up their bargaining demands.
"It"s outrageous what management"s negotiators have brought to the table," said Denise Davis, chair of the liquor board employees division of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). "What they"ve proposed doesn"t meet our minimum expectations. Our members are fed up and won"t back down."
She said a strike vote does not mean employees will walk off the job. It"s a signal to management to get serious about negotiating a good contract that preserves good jobs in the community. The union"s contract with the LCBO expires on Mar. 31, with bargaining dates set for April.
Besides a wage freeze to 2017, the LCBO has proposed a revised pay grid for new employees, a wage freeze for wage progression and wants to eliminate 270 assistant management positions at its larger stores. The Crown agency — which is the world"s largest retailer of spirits, wine and beer — also wants to "review" the employees" benefits packages with an eye for efficiencies.
The union is also concerned by the classification trend at the LCBO which, between Apr. 2008 and Sept. 2012, had increased part-time work by 981 positions — a number that spikes during the Christmas-New Year"s holiday and summer months — but has added only 156 permanent, full-time jobs.
"It"s not uncommon for an employee to wait 10, 15 or more years before they"re able land a permanent, full-time job," said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "The average part-timer at the LCBO earns about $26,000 a year. Is that a sufficient amount to improve your quality of life, give your kids opportunities and to retire with dignity? I think not."
Davis also pointed out that the per-employee profit at the LCBO amounts to more than $200,000 a year. In its last fiscal year the retail giant returned a dividend to the Ontario treasury of close to $1.6 billion on revenues more than $4.5 billion.
"The LCBO can well afford our modest contract demands," said Davis. "We never bargain with the intention of striking but our employer needs to roll up its sleeves and get down to some genuine negotiations."
Greg Hamara OPSEU Communications 647-238-9933 mobile