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OPSEU calls for strike vote in LCBO bargaining

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TORONTO – The union bargaining team for 6,000 workers at the LCBO is calling on its members to deliver a strong strike vote May 20-22 to spur contract negotiations with the provincially-owned retailer.

“The central issue in these negotiations is, ‘What kind of Ontario do we want?’” said Vanda Klumper, chair of the bargaining team for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and an LCBO employee in Stratford. “Do we want good permanent jobs with decent pay and benefits so regular people can live decently, or will we accept part-time, insecure, throwaway jobs that don’t allow us to bring our kids up properly or offer any hope for the future?”

Despite annual profits which exceed $200,000 per worker, the LCBO has aggressively driven down labour costs by eliminating permanent jobs and replacing them with lower-paid “casual” jobs with no benefits and no guaranteed hours of work.

Sixty per cent of LCBO staff now work as casuals with an average annual income less than $20,800. So-called “fixed term” casuals employed during the summer and in December earn just $10 an hour.

“Last week, our employer tabled a proposal that sounded the death knell for the remaining full-time, year-round, permanent jobs that we do have,” said Klumper. “We don’t accept that a highly profitable employer like the LCBO cannot provide good jobs, and we don’t think the people of Ontario should accept it either.”

The union will be asking Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to take an interest in the negotiations, said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. 

“Mr. McGuinty has voiced his support for good jobs for Ontario families on many occasions,” Thomas said. “OPSEU members are keen to have his support.”

OPSEU intends to return to the bargaining table immediately after the strike vote is taken. The union has not set a deadline for the talks.

The OPSEU collective agreement with the LCBO expired March 31, 2009.