LCBO workers are fighting back

Strike/Lockout Q & A for OPSEU/SEFPO LCBO members

Strike/Lockout Q & A for OPSEU/SEFPO LCBO members

Black background with white OPSEU/SEFPO logo and text in white green and yellow that says "Ready to strike"
Black background with white OPSEU/SEFPO logo and text in white green and yellow that says "Ready to strike"
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Part One: strike/lockout information

General

Q1. Are we going on strike?

Your bargaining team is bargaining for a collective agreement. We will only go on strike as a last resort if a fair deal cannot be reached. However, this round is different. The Ford government and the LCBO have made it clear that privatization is happening – our jobs are on the line.

As unionized workers, strikes are a powerful tool at our disposal in fighting to transform our lives for the better.

Q2. When could a strike or lockout happen?

A strike or lockout could happen as soon as 12:01 am. on Friday, July 5.

Q3. Can bargaining continue before the strike deadline?

Yes. In most cases, both parties feel strongly motivated to bargain seriously when the clock is ticking towards a strike deadline. As of right now, we have bargaining dates the week of June 17 and July 1.

Q4. If there is a strike, how will I know when it starts?

Your bargaining team will communicate with all members throughout the bargaining process by email and updates on OPSEU/SEFPO’s website. We will also post information on social media and provide media interviews.

Q5. Who will participate in a strike or lockout?

If a strike or lockout happens, all bargaining unit employees – permanent or temporary, fixed-term or seasonal – are on strike.

Q6. If I’m an acting manager, will I participate in a strike or lockout?

In the event of a strike or lockout, acting managers will be asked to return to the bargaining unit and will participate in the same way as all members of the bargaining unit.

Strike pay and duties

Q7. Will I receive strike pay?

In the event of a strike or lockout, strike pay is provided to members who complete strike-related duties assigned by their local strike committee. You will receive strike pay if:

  • you have registered on the OPSEU/SEFPO member portal and provided your direct deposit information so that strike pay can be deposited into your personal bank or credit union account;
  • you perform strike duties (e.g., picket duty) for 20 hours per week. If you are unable to provide the full 20 hours, please contact the Accommodation Subcommittee Chair to confirm the hours you can picket. Your strike pay will be prorated at the end of the “weekly period” for how many hours you were able to complete. (Of course, we want every member to put in as much time as possible to support the strike!); and
  • the strike or lockout lasts more than one day.

Q8. How much is strike pay?

During weeks one to three, each member is entitled to strike pay of $50 per day (or $250 per week). In addition, each dependent is entitled to $11 per day (or $55 per week).

During the fourth week, strike pay increases and each member is entitled to $70 per day (or $350 per week). Dependent pay remains the same at $55 per week.

A dependent is defined as:

  • a non-income-earning spouse (excluding a spouse on strike);
  • a child under 18 (or under 26 if attending school full-time) OR a dependent child as defined by the collective agreement or benefit plan;
  • a disabled family member; or
  • an elderly family member who normally receives financial support from the striking member.

If both spouses are on strike, both may claim the dependents. Strike pay is not taxable.

Q9. How will I receive my strike pay?

Your local finance sub-committee will submit records of your strike duties to the Accounting Department at OPSEU/SEFPO head office weekly.

For strike purposes, a week is 7 consecutive calendar days. The first day of the strike is the first day of week one. The first strike pay will not be issued until seven days after the beginning of the strike. After that, strike pay will be issued weekly.

Q10. What are strike duties?

These are duties assigned by your local strike duties committee that will help put maximum pressure on the employer to ensure the strike is as short as possible and that a new contract is reached as soon as possible. Strike duties may include picketing, running strike headquarters, handling strike logistics, lobbying politicians, talking to reporters, or any other duties that the local strike duties committee decides.

The central strike committee will communicate with locals about picket strategy and locations, key messages, and other examples of potential strike duties during the job action.

Remember, you should use your personal email to communicate about strike preparations – not the employer’s email.

Q11. What about day care costs?

There are no provisions for day care costs while on strike. You must work with your local committees to make suitable arrangements or accommodations so you can fulfill your strike responsibilities.

Q12. Can I arrange to picket at a location that is closer to my home?

Yes, you can arrange to picket at a location that is not your regular workplace. Because this will be a highly political strike, in the event of a strike at the LCBO there will be a range of picketing locations including stores, warehouses, and potentially MPP offices.

You will need to fill out Form J (Picketing/Accommodation Information), which can be found in the Strike Manual. This form must be submitted to your OPSEU/SEFPO staff representative. Once this is done, the strike finance chair can record your hours on the Member Portal.

If the new location is outside of your home local, you will be added to the receiving local’s strike roster for the duration of the strike/lockout.

Q13. What if I cannot picket or require accommodation?

All members of a striking bargaining unit have the right to participate fully in the strike. However, some members may not be able to perform all strike duties. In such cases, the strike committee has a legal and moral obligation to modify the member’s strike duties to enable them to earn strike pay.

This is called accommodation. Those requiring accommodation to perform modified strike picket duties must fill out Form J (Picketing/Accommodation Information), a copy of which is in the Strike Manual. Details of a member’s needs are confidential.

Q14. How do I reduce the financial impact of a strike?

  • Mortgages/rent: Talk to your bank, credit union, or landlord to try and negotiate a plan for the duration before the next payment is due.
  • Taxes: Ask if an accommodation can be arranged to defer property taxes.
  • Utilities: Make a request to spread out your payments.
  • Loans: If your lender won’t allow a deferral, consider refinancing to reduce the payments.
  • Credit cards: Charging purchases while on strike is not recommended but sometimes cannot be avoided. Make sure to make the minimum payment or use a line of credit with a lower interest rate if possible.
  • Insurance: Investigate ways to spread out the premiums.
  • Child support: Contact your ex-spouse/partner and try to work something out for the duration of the strike or lockout.

Q15. What is the local hardship relief committee?

This is a sub-committee of the local strike committee that assists and provides advice to members who may require additional help to get through the strike.

The local hardship relief committee is funded by donations – it is not funded by OPSEU/SEFPO centrally. The committee may make recommendations to the local strike committee that some members, who are experiencing particular hardship, receive special assistance. Committee members may also communicate with local financial institutions about the strike and, where necessary, work with those financial institutions to help striking members meet their credit obligations until the strike is over.

Please note that the normal hardships of being on strike do not qualify a member for hardship relief. To qualify, a member must first exhaust all other reasonable options.

All members are strongly encouraged to continue to plan their personal finances. Contact your bank, credit union, your landlord, your daycare provider, etc., to discuss payment options. The earlier you make a plan, the better prepared you will be.

Q16.  How can I help my local during the strike?

There are so many ways to be involved and ensure a successful strike!

  • Consider volunteering for strike committees to help with communications, finance, or logistics.
  • Help make signs, help run the phone tree, and spread the word about the issues to your friends, family members, neighbours, faith group members, and your MPP.
  • Email or phone Premier Doug Ford, 416-325-1941, premier@ontario.ca; and Peter Bethlenfalvy, 416-325-0400, Bethlenfalvy@pc.ola.org.
  • Visit SoFundMe.ca and take action!

Visit the OPSEU/SEFPO web page for LCBO workers for more actions you can take to fight for your contract and good jobs at the LCBO.

Part Two: pension and benefit information

Benefits

Q17. Do I still receive insured benefits if I end up on strike or locked out?

Under OPSEU/SEFPO policy, the union attempts to negotiate with the employer (prior to any work stoppage) to continue insured benefits if there is a strike or lockout. Your bargaining team is currently in discussions with the employer about this.

If the employer does not agree to continue coverage, OPSEU/SEFPO will provide a limited benefit package through the OPSEU Joint Trusteed Benefit Fund (OJTBF). OPSEU/SEFPO will also supply insured benefit coverage for any member who is off on a pre-existing disability claim who has had their coverage terminated as a result of a strike/lockout.

Upon request, OPSEU/SEFPO will provide insured benefit coverage for members on strike/lockout who do not have insured benefits while at work but would be receiving a percentage in lieu of benefits if not for the strike/lockout. This applies to casual, seasonal, and other workers who do not normally have insured benefits at work, provided they participate in the strike and fulfill their strike duties.

Q18. Do I have to return employer-issued equipment if I end up on strike or locked out?

Yes, if asked, you must return all employer-issued equipment.

Vacation

Q19. What happens if I am on vacation when a strike or lockout starts? Will I get paid?

No. You are considered to be on strike or locked out once a labour dispute starts. The employer does not have to give you vacation pay.

Q20. If my pre-approved vacation falls during a strike or lockout, will I get vacation pay?

No. There is no collective agreement in effect. The employer does not have to pay you vacation pay. You can keep your vacation credits and can take approved vacation later. If you perform strike duties, you will receive strike pay.

Sick Leave

Q21. Can I get short-term sick leave with pay when I’m on strike or locked out?

No, because the collective agreement does not apply.

Q22. What happens if I’m on short-term sick leave when a strike or lockout starts?

The employer will stop short-term sick leave benefits, but you can apply for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. Applications can be made directly by attending a Service Canada office. You may also check the Service Canada website. Be sure to keep copies of the forms and medical certificates related to your sick leave that you gave to your employer and Service Canada.

Q23. Am I eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits during a strike or lockout?

Maybe. If you can show that your leave was anticipated and arrangements for it had begun before a strike or lockout started. Being on short-term sick leave before a strike or lockout may show that your leave was anticipated. Inform the employer in writing of the dates of any scheduled surgery and anticipated recovery periods. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself at home.

However, be sure to check with Service Canada to determine whether your circumstances meet their entitlement for sickness benefits.

Q24. To apply for EI sickness benefits, I need my record of employment (ROE) from my employer. During a strike or lockout, can I get my ROE?

Your employer should give you your ROE. If you can’t get it, or there is a delay, don’t wait for your ROE. Apply as soon as possible – a temporary claim can be set up for you. Bring proof that you were working, such as pay stubs, when you apply for benefits. If you informed your employer of any scheduled surgery or provided medical certificates for your sick leave, then take copies with you to the EI office. This can also be done virtually.

Q25. EI has a one-week waiting period at the beginning of every claim. Will I have to wait the one week if I was on short-term sick leave before a strike or lockout?

If you were on short-term sick leave before a strike or lockout, EI may waive the one-week waiting period. However, if your sick leave did not begin before the strike or lockout, and if you are approved for EI, it is unlikely the one week waiting period will be waived. Ask Service Canada for clarification.

Q26. Can I participate in the strike or lockout while I’m receiving EI sickness benefits or in the two-week waiting period?

You could lose your EI sickness benefits if your involvement in the labour dispute leads EI to think you are well enough to return to work.

Q27. Will the amount of my EI sickness benefits be affected by a strike or lockout?

Possibly. The amount you receive is based on your best 14 to 22 weeks of earnings in the prior 52 weeks. The number of weeks used (14-22) is based on the rate of unemployment in your region. This is determined by EI. If you only worked 14 to 22 weeks in the past year, then the strike could affect the amount you receive from EI. But if you worked for more than 22 weeks in the last year, it is unlikely to have any effect on the amount you receive.

That said, strike pay is not considered to be earnings for EI purposes, so it will not be deducted from your EI benefit.

Q28. Am I eligible for EI sickness benefits if I was on modified work (part-time or full-time) before the strike or lockout began?

No.

Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)

Q29. Does my OHIP coverage stop as a result of a strike or lockout?

No. OHIP is based on living in Ontario, not on being at work. If you had OHIP coverage before a strike or lockout and you keep living in Ontario, your OHIP coverage continues.

Pension Plan

Q30. What happens to my pension during a strike or lockout?

Neither you nor the employer pays into the pension plan during a strike or lockout. However, your membership in the plan continues, and you don’t lose any entitlement you had earned up to the date the strike/lockout began.

Q31. Will I be able to buy back the pension credits I lose during a strike or lockout?

Yes, the OPSEU Pension Plan allows members to buy back service for strike or lockout periods after they return to work. The cost and payment options may be influenced by the terms of any back-to-work agreement.

OPTrust typically takes a proactive approach by providing buyback cost quotes to affected members once the strike concludes. Updates and detailed information would be posted on the OPTrust website at optrust.com once a strike or lockout ends and members have returned to work.

Q32. Will a strike or lockout affect my early retirement dates?

Your early retirement date may be delayed if you don’t buy back the pension credits you lost during a strike or lockout. Consult with OPTrust to see the exact impact the strike has on your earliest retirement date.

Q33. Can I retire during a strike or lockout?

Yes, but you have to make the arrangements directly with OPTrust. You can contact them at 2900‑1 Adelaide Street East, Toronto, Ontario M5C 3A7. Call 416-681-6100 or (toll-free) 1‑800-637-0024.

Please note that the employer must confirm the date you retire. Therefore, the payment of your pension may be delayed if the employer didn’t notify OPTrust before the strike that you were retiring.

If you intend to retire within the next couple of months during the potential strike, please notify your employer of your upcoming retirement date as soon as possible. OPTrust will work with you to collect all required retirement forms and process your pension.

Q34. During a strike or lockout, can I apply to buy back pension credits for service prior to the strike, so as to be within time limits?

Yes. Contact OPTrust directly to arrange a buyback.

Q35. Will a strike or lockout have an impact on my best 60 consecutive months’ salary for pension calculations?

No. These calculations are based on your salary rate, whether or not you’re at work. Pay lost during a strike or lockout will not affect it.

Q36. How would a strike or lockout affect me if I am currently buying back eligible pension service?

If your buyback is being paid by payroll deduction, it will stop during a strike or lockout. You will need to have the deductions recalculated after a strike or lockout to make up any missed payments so that you complete the buyback within the time limits. Once the strike or lockout concludes, contact OPTrust to have the recalculation completed.

Q37. If I die during a strike or lockout, will my survivors get their benefits under the pension plan?

Yes.

Employment Insurance (EI)

Q38. Can I get regular EI if I’m not working because of a strike or lockout?

No. Generally, if you’re unable to work because of a strike or lockout, you can’t get regular EI benefits. However, you may be eligible for EI maternity, parental (includes adoption), sickness, or authorized training benefits.

Pregnancy/Parental/Adoption Leave

Q39. What happens if I’m on maternity, parental, or adoption leave, and a strike or lockout starts? Will my EI benefits continue?

Yes, your EI benefits will continue for the duration of your leave.

Q40. Will I receive EI maternity, parental, or adoption leave benefits if my leave starts during a strike or lockout?

Yes, if you can show you were arranging the leave before the strike or lockout. Write to the employer, stating your intent. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself.

Q41. If I participate in the strike or lockout prior to the start of my prearranged maternity, parental, or adoption leave, will I still receive my EI benefits?

Yes, if you can show you were arranging the leave before the strike or lockout. Write to the employer, stating your intent. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself at home.

Q42. Can I participate in a strike or lockout while I’m on maternity, parental, or adoption leave, and still receive my EI benefits?

Yes. However, keep in mind that EI pays these benefits on the assumption that you need the time off to care for your child. Strike pay is not considered to be earnings for EI purposes, so it won’t be deducted from your EI benefit.

Q43. Will the amount of my EI benefits be affected by a strike or lockout?

Possibly. The amount you receive is based on your best 14 to 22 weeks of earnings in the prior 52 weeks. The number of weeks used (14-22) is based on the rate of unemployment in your region. This is determined by EI. If you only worked 14 to 22 weeks in the past year, then the strike could affect the amount you receive from EI. But if you worked for more than 22 weeks in the last year, it’s unlikely to have any effect on the amount you receive.

Q44. To apply for EI maternity, parental, or adoption leave benefits I need my record of employment (ROE) from the employer. If my leave starts during a strike or lockout, can I get my ROE?

Your employer should give you your ROE. If you can’t get it, or if there’s a delay, bring proof that you were working, such as pay stubs, to the EI office when you apply for benefits. Apply as soon as you can. Don’t wait for your ROE. A temporary claim can be set up for you.

Q45. Under the collective agreement, the employer tops up my wages to 93 per cent of my pay for the first two weeks of my maternity, parental, or adoption leave. Will I get this during a strike or lockout?

No. The employer does not have to pay this for any part of the two-week period that falls during a strike or lockout.

Q46. Under the collective agreement, the employer tops up my EI maternity, parental, or adoption leave benefits to 93 per cent of my pay for a number of weeks (15 weeks of maternity leave top-up and 10 weeks of paternity leave top-up).If I am on leave and getting EI benefits before a strike or lockout, or go on leave during a strike or lockout, will I get the top-up from the employer?
During a strike or lockout you will not receive the top-up.

Q47. Would the top-up start up again after a strike or lockout?

Yes, as long as you are still getting EI maternity or parental (including adoption) benefits and the top-up provision still exists in the new collective agreement.

Q48. Do I have benefit coverage if I’m on maternity, parental, or adoption leave during a strike or lockout?

Based on our discussions with the employer about benefits, your benefits should be continued in the event of a strike or lockout, and OPSEU/SEFPO will reimburse the employer for all costs.

Q49. What happens if my maternity, parental, or adoption leave ends, and I’m ready to return to work while a strike or lockout is still on?

You are considered on strike or locked out, and you should report for strike duties.

Q50. The collective agreement says I must serve 13 weeks to get leave without pay for maternity, parental, or adoption leave. Will a strike or lockout interrupt my eligibility for these leaves?

A strike or lockout does not interrupt the qualifying period for these leaves. To be eligible, your hire date must be at least 13 weeks before the expected date of birth or start of the parental or adoption leave.

Long-Term Income Protection (LTIP)

Q51. If I’m on LTIP before a strike or lockout, do my LTIP benefits continue?

Yes, because LTIP is not paid directly by the employer.

Q52. If I’m on LTIP when a strike or lockout starts, will I receive other benefits?

Based on our discussions with the employer about benefits, your benefits should be continued in the event of a strike or lockout, and OPSEU/SEFPO will reimburse the employer for all costs.

Q53. If I become ill or injured while on strike or locked out, will I be eligible for LTIP benefits?

No, you won’t have LTIP coverage for an injury or illness that occurs during a strike or lockout.

Q54. Would a strike or lockout interrupt my six-month qualifying period for LTIP?

No, you’re eligible for LTIP benefits if your application is approved. You can qualify for LTIP during a strike or lockout. A strike or lockout does not delay your eligibility.

Q55. If approved, will my LTIP benefits begin immediately, or will they be delayed until after a strike or lockout ends?

Your LTIP benefits will begin immediately.

Q56. While returning to work on a gradual basis, I’ve been receiving both rehabilitative employment earnings from the employer and LTIP benefits. Will I continue to receive both during the strike?

The employer does not pay you. Your LTIP benefits continue to be paid by the insurer, without the usual reduction of 50 per cent of your rehabilitative employment earnings.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Benefits

Q57. If I’m injured while on strike duty, can I make a WSIB claim?

No, you can’t.

Q58. If I’m getting WSIB benefits, will they continue during a strike or lockout?

In many cases, yes, provided you continue to qualify medically and co-operate with WSIB-approved programs.

However, if WSIB discontinues or threatens to discontinue your benefits, contact the OPSEU/SEFPO Pensions and Benefits Department at 1-800-268-7376 and ask to speak to the WSIB benefits counsellor.

Q59. If I have an approved WSIB claim and I’m in receipt of WSIB benefits, who pays me during a strike or lockout?

WSIB will pay you directly.

Q60. Does the WSIB pay me the equivalent of my salary?

No. If the WSIB pays you directly, you will get WSIB benefits, which are 85 per cent of your net average earnings for any injury or illness that occurred after January 1, 1998, or 90 per cent for any injury or illness before that.

Q61. Would my strike pay affect the WSIB benefits that I get during a strike or lockout?

No. Strike pay is not considered earnings by the WSIB. Therefore, it’s not offset from WSIB benefits. However, you’re in receipt of WSIB benefits because you’re deemed too ill or injured to be working. If the WSIB believes you have recovered enough to be working (i.e., because you have reported for strike duty), they may not continue your WSIB benefits.

Q62. Will I have benefit coverage if I’m on WSIB during a strike or lockout?

You can keep employment benefits for one year from the date of your injury or until you return to work, whichever is sooner. You must pay your share of the premiums. Your benefit coverage remains the same as when you were at work.

Q63. What happens if I’m getting WSIB benefits and am ready to return to some type of work during a strike or lockout?

The employer will probably tell the WSIB that there is no appropriate placement for you due to the labour dispute. If this happens, inform the WSIB of your situation and your intention to continue following WSIB rules. You should continue to receive WSIB benefits as long as you co-operate with their requirements.

If WSIB discontinues your benefits, contact the OPSEU/SEFPO Pensions and Benefits Department at 1-800-268-7376 and ask to speak to the WSIB benefits counsellor.