OPSEU/SEFPO leaders call on province to resolve rapid test confusion at LCBOs

LCBO: Essentially Yours over an illustration of dozens of people behind an LCBO store

Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO is calling on the province to immediately issue clear, detailed instructions to the public about the distribution of rapid tests following a rapid influx of traffic at LCBO locations.

OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas noted the union’s strong support for improving access to rapid tests, including at LCBO locations, but expressed concern about the plan’s implementation and lack of effective communication.

“Improving Ontarians’ access to rapid tests is certainly a positive step toward stopping the spread of COVID-19, especially as the holidays approach and families plan in-person gatherings,” said Thomas. “Unfortunately, the plan has not been communicated clearly. This is causing confusion and chaos in the stores, and increasing the risks faced by workers, customers and the general public.”

Since the government’s announcement this week that rapid COVID-19 tests would be available at select LCBO locations, Ontarians have flocked to the LCBO to get rapid tests, including those who have identified that they are symptomatic and looking to be tested on-site.

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida emphasized the importance of clear communication in keeping LCBO workers and the public safe during the holiday season as the province experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases and the rising threat of the Omicron variant.

“With the proper resources and a plan that is effectively communicated to the public, LCBO stores are ideal locations to hand out rapid tests to asymptomatic customers who are already shopping at the LCBO,” said Almeida. “While the intention here is good, the implementation has been problematic, and dangerous – driving more traffic into already-busy stores.”

Colleen MacLeod, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Liquor Board Employees Division (LBED), discussed the importance of additional resources and safeguards to ensure that LCBO workers can continue to do their jobs effectively.

“Since the start of the pandemic, LCBO workers have been dedicated to supporting our communities while reducing the spread of COVID-19,” said MacLeod. “But, to continue providing a high standard of safety while distributing rapid tests to the public, the LCBO must hire more staff, and provide separate spaces, like kiosks, with dedicated staff to hand out the tests.

“We must ensure that there is a steady supply of tests to keep up with demand, including enough tests for LCBO staff,” added MacLeod. “There must also be clear communication from the province to the public about their plan to improve access to rapid tests and distribute them at the LCBO.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; opseucommunications@opseu.org