Slash and Burn!
The LCBO wants to roll back your hard-won rights
Your bargaining team met with the employer the week of February 21, and from day one the LCBO's plan was clear – to strip hard-won rights out of the collective agreement.
As is often the case in bargaining, the two sides started by exchanging the non-monetary proposals. We will wait to exchange proposals around items with cost attached (like wages, benefits, or vacation) until after the non-monetary ones have been discussed.
But while we haven't yet seen the employer's monetary proposals, a quick glance at the nonmonetary ones is chilling. The employer's proposals are clear: if we agree to them, they will set the stage for store closures and numerous staff layoffs; unrestricted contracting out of our members' work; and precarious scheduling being imposed on all staff, both full-time and casual. Beyond that, these proposals will continue to weaken the LCBO and make it easier for the government to chip away at it through piecemeal privatization.
Our union proposals offer a very different vision for the LCBO's future. We want to protect the LCBO as an important public asset the province relies on; improve job security ; reduce uncertainty around scheduling to improve work-life balance; and create a safer and healthier working environment for all.
What the employer is proposing: A weaker and meaner LCBO
The employer's proposals look like they've been ripped from the 1930s. They represent an attempt to go back in time, and roll back the hard-won rights that previous generations of workers fought for. Every one of these proposals will strip rights from workers and hand power to managers. At the same time, they'll eliminate many of the protections we have right now against further privatization of the LCBO.
If implemented, they will be negative across the board – negative for work-life balance, negative for morale, and negative for your well-being.
And keep in mind – the list below is just the tip of the iceberg. This doesn't even start to touch on the monetary proposals the employer will table as we continue with bargaining.
Worse scheduling and days of work
The LCBO wants to strip hard-won regular shift schedules and days off, and turn every worker – full-time or casual – into a precarious worker. Management is proposing that the regular work week be eliminated, and instead make all parts of the LCBO – including head office, warehouses, and retail stores – a seven-day-a-week operation. As if that wasn't bad enough, the LCBO wants to be able to schedule hours weekly, rather than daily, so that managers can pick and choose what days people work, regardless of their seniority.
At the same time, management wants to eliminate set shifts and give themselves the flexibility to pick whatever start and end times they choose.
Add to this the proposed change to allow managers to schedule shifts as little as eight hours apart, and to schedule midnight shift workers in multiple locations within a geographic area, and you can see what a nightmare this could be. One worker might be required to work until 11:30 p.m. Thursday night and start Friday morning at 8:00 a.m., while another worker might be told that she's working Thursday in Windsor and Friday on Pelee Island – all at the manager's discretion.
You can bet that, under their plan, anyone management doesn't like, or wants to get rid of, will end up with the worst shifts and the most impossible schedules.
If the LCBO gets away with these changes, management will leave workers with no idea of what days they'll be working – or even what store they'll be working in – and no ability to plan their families' lives more than a few weeks ahead of time. In effect, this will turn full-time workers into casuals with guaranteed hours, but no set schedules, and make life even more impossible for existing casuals.
Removing protections against privatization
Some of the most alarming changes proposed by the employer are designed to weaken the LCBO by eliminating the protections against privatization and making it cheaper to lay off permanent staff.
The LCBO is looking to eliminate the letter of agreement on contracting out. This letter says that management can't contract out work that's done by bargaining unit members if it would lead to the layoff of a permanent full-time employee. By getting rid of this, management could give away the work of any staff member – or a whole division – to a private contractor. Maybe this will mean contracting out Head Office IT jobs to overseas data centres, or handing our warehouses and e-commerce over to Amazon. Without this letter, we have no idea what the LCBO might do, or who might lose their job as a result.
These plans look even more ominous when you add in the employer's proposals around severance. Here, the LCBO wants to radically slash the severance of workers by only counting the years worked as a permanent employee. Right now, workers are entitled to one week of severance for every year worked. In a context where it can take 15 years or more for a casual to make it into a permanent full-time position, not counting time spent as a casual would mean the loss of a significant part of your severance. From the LCBO's perspective, this would make it much cheaper to start laying off large numbers of permanent staff.
The LCBO isn't stopping there. It also wants to continue the back-door privatization of the LCBO by giving management the ability to convert retail stores to agency stores anywhere in the province, handing over even more of the revenue that right now goes to the public to private corporations.
Making life worse for casuals
If you're a casual, the LCBO didn't forget about you – management wants to make life worse for you too.
Right now, casuals have some protection from being let go if they get sick or have family or other commitments come up that require them to not work for a short period of time. Under the existing agreement, you have to be unavailable for a period of three months before the LCBO can terminate you. This will change if the LCBO gets its way. Management wants to drop that from three months to 10 shifts, to give managers the right to terminate casuals who are unavailable for a short period of time, regardless of their seniority.
For those who manage to keep their jobs, the LCBO wants to make it harder to move up on the wage grid. It's only been a few weeks since an arbitrator's award on our major human rights complaint forced the employer to offer equal pay for equal work, yet the LCBO is already looking for a way to pay workers less. These proposals include adding an hours threshold to each step, so that if you move up a step because you reach the two-year maximum for any of the first five steps, you'll have to work even more hours to get to the next step. On top of that, the LCBO no longer wants to count the promotion from casual to full-time as a promotion, so workers won't move up a step when they finally do manage to get a permanent position.
Fewer promotions and transfers
If you are hoping for the chance to be considered for a transfer or a promotion, the employer's proposals are bad news for you too. The LCBO wants to make it harder for people to be considered for transfers or promotions by limiting the number of competitions that employees will be considered for in a year.
Less union involvement
Are you active in your union? Do you dedicate some of your time to looking out for your fellow members by being involved in OPSEU? That will get harder if the LCBO gets its way. The employer wants to put in place new restrictions to limit the ability of members to be involved in their union. Management knows that a weaker union makes it easier for managers to do whatever they want.
Attacks on the health and wellness of workers
In the last round of bargaining, health and safety was a big concern, but the employer didn't want to budge on protecting workers. Your bargaining team refused to back down, and eventually the employer agreed to the letter of agreement on health and safety that is in the current agreement. This letter included giving the provincial health and safety committee the ability to "engage in discussions related to critical injury prevention, work refusals, unsafe workplaces and workload."
Now the employer no longer wants to live up to the agreement they made, and wants to strip this language out and go back to the bare minimum required under the law. The LCBO no longer wants to recognize any of the issues above as even related to the health and safety of workers. We fought for this language – but now management seems to think we'll just let them strip it away and leave workers unprotected.
More rejected benefits claims
Ever had a benefit claim rejected by the insurer? If the LCBO gets its way, it could become a lot more common – and there won't be anything the union can do about it. The employer is proposing to remove the ability of the Joint Insurance Benefits Review Committee (JIBRC) to review rejected claims, and leave all decisions up to the insurer.
Messing with the grievance process
In one small but very disturbing proposal, the LCBO wants to require members to give details on grievances during the first step of the process. This is the one stage where the member has no steward or union rep present. If the employer gets its way, managers will be able to require members to hand over details that can be used against them, without anyone from the union present to look out for their interests.
Making working conditions worse, and more petty attacks…
As if everything proposed so far wasn't enough of an attack on working conditions, the employer has tabled a number of additional proposals that just seem designed to make working at the LCBO more unpleasant.
In one, management wants to avoid paying out the $10 meal payment you're entitled to if you're required to work overtime, if you don't actually buy and consume the meal during the shift. What's next – will your manager make you show your empty plate to check that you finished your vegetables?
In a second proposal, the LCBO wants to add scarves and ties back into the uniform requirements, while also adding in references in the collective agreement to "deportment standards" that will limit what shoes can be worn. The employer bargaining team doesn't want to actually put those standards in the agreement; they just want to bind workers to whatever standards management decides they want to set.
And in another proposal, management wants to stop providing all-weather jackets and vests to those who work outdoors, and instead make them provide their own cold-weather gear, so workers will have to wear and possibly damage their own clothes. And the employer has been clear that workers won't be compensated for any clothing that's ruined as a result of this change.
Each proposal has its own angle, and they all make life harder for workers in their own way, but at their heart all the proposals above add up to one thing: a weaker and meaner LCBO.
What the union is proposing: A stronger and better LCBO
We have a different vision.
Instead of looking back to the past in an attempt to wreck working conditions, we want to look to the future and build a stronger and better LCBO – one we can all be proud to work at, and that Ontarians can be proud to be the owners of.
Saving the LCBO
Making that vision a reality means making sure that the LCBO, an important asset for Ontarians, remains public. Ontarians have already lost too much to privatization, whether that's losing $500 million a year under the Liberals' scheme to privatize Hydro One, or $1 billion a year as a result of the Conservatives' ill-fated decision to privatize Highway 407.
We can't afford to let the government repeat these mistakes with the LCBO. That's why we're putting forward language that will mean the government can't move ahead with privatizing the LCBO without the public's approval. We just think Ontarians should have the say they didn't have on Hydro One.
A regular work week that supports work-life balance
We are proposing a regular work week that recognizes the critical role regular weekends off play in work-life balance. Our proposal would set the work week for PFTs as Monday to Friday, with regular weekends off to take care of other life responsibilities.
Stability for workers and their families
While management maintains the right to transfer employees as needed, we are asking for some reasonable limits on this to reduce the significant impact this can have on workers and their families. We think it's reasonable to limit employees to being transferred no more than twice in a single year, and also to give the union the chance to challenge transfers where they are being used improperly.
A workplace free of harassment and discrimination
Making our vision a reality also means harassment and discrimination language that will address significant concerns of continuing harassment and discrimination issues across the LCBO, while also tackling ongoing equity problems.
Seniority instead of favouritism
For too long, we've watched managers play favourites when they schedule shifts and assign work duties, instead of respecting the time that long-serving employees have put into the company. We are proposing firmer language that will make sure that scheduling and assignment of duties is based on seniority, so managers can't use these as ways to reward their friends or punish those they don't like.
Improving job security
When a layoff happens, we want members to be able to choose to look outside their geographic area, if they want, rather than taking a position with a lower classification. Members who are willing to look further from their home, or who work at the edge of a geographic area, should have the right to look at other options, rather than being forced into a lower classification or a casual position.
A grievance process that works
We have an enormous backlog of grievances as the result of a broken grievance process. We are looking to overhaul and speed up the process to get these grievances dealt with, so members aren't left waiting for a resolution. To do this, we have proposed removing Stage 3 of the grievance procedure, and making mediation/arbitration the default process for cases that don't involve dismissal, sexual harassment, human rights or union policy grievances.
Reducing precarious work and improving life for casuals
We are proposing that the employer be required to schedule hours to the maximum available. This will mean that if an eight-hour shift is available, it must be assigned to one worker and can't be split up amongst multiple staff. With this change we can ensure that casuals get enough hours in a week to make a decent living, rather than trying to scrape by on a continuous stream of two- or five-hour shifts.
A safe and healthy workplace
We continue to push for improvements in health and safety for workers. Our proposal would improve health and safety by enhancing training for committee members, adding a premium for staff who are required to work alone, and creating a wellness fund of $250 for each PFT or PPT employee to help improve health.
In addition to the improvements listed, we have also made proposals that will:
- limit the time discipline letters remain on file,
- ensure that managers aren't doing members' work, and
- ensure that transfers are determined by seniority.
By making these changes to the collective agreement, in addition to the others that we will table when we get to monetary proposals, we can strengthen the LCBO, improve working conditions, and ensure that this important public asset is protected for the future.
Getting ready for anything
Your bargaining team faces a real challenge from your employer. From the proposals they employer's side has put forward, it seems the LCBO is only interested in looking back to the past to make things worse for workers, rather than making the improvements that could strengthen the company for the future.
The good news, however, is that your team is facing that challenge with the strength that comes from having a province-wide union at their back.
Your team knows that, if need be, they have access to a strike fund that is more than $72 million. That means that they can stand firm and fight for the deal you deserve, knowing that, if it comes to that point, that strike fund is there to support you.
That strike fund is at your disposal, but being ready to stand firm as a division means making sure that every individual member is strike-ready. This is the time to start looking at your budget, setting aside some savings in case you need them, and making sure that you have your own finances in order.
I hope your employer sees reason, and I know that your bargaining team is bargaining for a fair deal, not a strike. But I also know that they won't take any deal that doesn't protect the LCBO and the men and women who work there. I'm proud of them because of that.
Stand strong, and know that you have the strength of the entire union available if you need it.
Because your fight is our fight. That's what solidarity means.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, Ontario Public Service Employees Union
From the chair: Looking forward, not backward
I know members continue to be worried about what they're hearing from their managers about the arbitrator's ruling. I'm not surprised – the employer wants nothing more than to worry members and try to weaken us by dividing us against one another.
Don't let the employer win, and don't let management lies go unchallenged. If you hear something from your manager that you think we need to correct, send us an email at LBEDbargaining@opseu.org and we'll include it in our next set of "My Boss Said What??" fact sheets. You can get up-to-date fact sheets and information from our bargaining page at https://opseu.org/LBEDbargaining.
As we move ahead, it's also important to realize that the arbitrator's ruling isn't the end of the fight. Even after the employer brings him back to clarify his ruling, that will do nothing more than set out where bargaining will start from.
The human rights complaint is done, and the fight is now in the hands of the team. And I'll tell you right now that we don't intend to give up on the LCBO.
This fight is too important for us to back down. Our province needs the LCBO, and it needs the benefits that the LCBO provides. These revenues pay for critical public services – without them, Ontarians will be left with two options: pay more in taxes, or cut important public services. I know this, you know this, and together we're going to make sure that Ontarians know this.
It's time to look forward to the fight ahead, not backward to the arbitration that's finished.
Chair, LBED Bargaining Team
Meet your mobilizers!
In collective bargaining, power comes from the support of union members. Experience has shown that employers move at the bargaining table when members take action inside and outside the workplace. To help build that power, OPSEU has booked off 15 mobilizers, elected by LBED members at your Pre-Bargaining Conference in April 2016. These mobilizers, who are your co-workers at the LCBO, are on union leave, starting Monday, February 27. They will work to build support for your elected bargaining team and the bargaining priorities you selected during demand-setting.
Michael Peris Feb. 27 – March 21, filling in for Guy Jeremschuk
Meet your bargaining team
The OPSEU bargaining team for the Liquor Board Employees Division consists of five members:
Denise Davis, Chair, Local 378
Colleen MacLeod, Vice-Chair, Local 5107
Jennifer Van Zetten, Local 162
Robin Reath, Local 163
Mark Larocque, Local 499
The bargaining team is assisted by OPSEU Negotiator Jeff Weston, Researcher Steve Crossman, and other assigned staff.
Contact us by email at LBEDbargaining@opseu.org
You can receive this bargaining bulletin (and our regular newsletter, the Echo) directly by e-mail. Just call OPSEU at 1-800-268-7376 or (416) 443-8888, and give the operator your name and e-mail address.
You can also watch for updates on the OPSEU website at www.opseu.org/LBEDbargaining. And be sure to attend upcoming bargaining information meetings in your area.