OPSEU Liquor Board Employees Division

Team calls strike vote – 2017 LBED Bargaining Bulletin, Issue 8

Team calls strike vote

Bargaining team asks for strong strike vote as jobs at risk

“It’s clear this employer isn’t really interested in reaching an agreement,” said Denise Davis, chair of the Liquor Board Employees Division bargaining team. “We see this in the LCBO’s attempts to go around the negotiating table and change terms and working conditions through arbitration, the slash and burn bargaining proposals that threaten members’ job security, and on-going attempts to privatize our work.”

The bargaining team called the LCBO’s actions in the “equal pay for equal work” arbitration case the “final straw.” The team has no choice but to ask for a strong strike vote as they return to the table on April 3 with an employer “that shows no respect for workers.”

“A strong strike vote will serve as a wakeup call to the LCBO,” added Davis. “It will tell the LCBO’s senior management that, unless they get serious about bargaining, they’ll have to explain to the Premier why picket lines have replaced checkout lines at stores across Ontario.”

“The LCBO seems to think they can treat our members however they want,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “I can tell you that based on what I’ve heard from members, LCBO management is in for a real surprise when they find out just how upset members really are.

“And I’m as upset as they are. The proposals management has put forward are an attempt to rip huge holes in your collective agreement. And the way the LCBO has tried to squeeze co-workers to cover the cost of providing their colleagues with basic rights is just plain wrong.

“Now what happens next is up to you. Your team needs a strong vote from members across the province to give them the strength they need to go back to the table and push back against this employer’s outrageous proposals. I can promise you that your entire union is standing behind you. When you take on this fight, you’ll do so with the support of all 130,000 members of OPSEU. You’ll never stand alone.”

Strike vote details

The strike vote will be held on April 24 and 25, at locations across the province. While locations are still being finalized, a full list will be provided in a future bulletin. As in past rounds, telephone voting will be available for those not close to a voting location.

What’s at risk?

It’s about the future of our jobs – and of the LCBO itself

The employer’s demands are all about stripping away rights that previous generations of workers fought for and giving managers more control over your work. Not only that, these demands strip out the protections against the privatization of the LCBO, and slash compensation for workers if privatization costs them their jobs.

If we let them take what they want, we’ll all pay the price. Workers will lose their jobs, morale will take a hit, and work-life balance will suffer for those who are left. On top of that, Ontarians will stand to lose vital public services as the LCBO is hollowed out.

While the LCBO’s non-monetary proposals, and the union’s, are described in detail in the March 6 Bargaining Bulletin, the key issues facing us right now are summarized below.

Job security

From what we’ve seen at the table, the LCBO is sending a pretty clear signal that no one’s job is safe.

The LCBO bargaining team has proposed ripping up the letter of agreement that stops the employer from contracting out work that’s done by bargaining unit members if it would result in the layoff of a permanent full-time employee. Without that protection, the LCBO could hand the work of any division over to a private contractor, and cut the jobs of everyone in that division. That letter protects jobs – without it, no one’s job will be safe.

Not only are jobs at risk, but the LCBO is also trying to make it cheaper to cut them. The LCBO has proposed changes to the number of years that count when calculating severance to only include the years worked as a permanent employee. Given how many years it can take a casual to work their way up to a permanent position, this would mean the loss of a significant part of the severance that laid-off workers have the right to right now.

The future of the LCBO at risk

We are worried about the future of the LCBO itself. There are the changes to contracting out language and severance provisions mentioned above that make it cheaper and easier for the LCBO to privatize parts of the organization. On top of that, we are highly concerned about the growth of alcohol sales by private retailers and the signals we’re getting from the employer about its interest in expanding the agency store program.

Ontario needs the LCBO.  The profits from LCBO sales help pay for teachers in Cornwall, MRIs in Timmins, highways in Simcoe County, hospitals in Thunder Bay, child care spaces in Toronto, Western University in London, Mohawk College in Hamilton, and more. If we give up those profits, we have two options – either pay more in taxes, or cut important public services.

LCBO management should be standing with us, making this argument about the important role the LCBO plays. But from the proposals we’ve seen, it seems like management is instead looking to pave the way for their government shareholder to continue its back-door privatization.

In front of the arbitrator, the LCBO argued that they wanted relief from the restrictions in the collective agreement about where and how they can open new agency stores. Management also argued that there shouldn’t be a cap on the number of agency stores, leaving the door wide open to a rapid expansion of this program that just would funnel more public revenue into private pockets.

At the same time, the government continues with the rapid privatization and expansion of alcohol sales with increases to the number of grocery stores selling beer, cider, and wine.

This just confirms what we’ve been saying all along. This round is really about the future of the LCBO as an important public asset that the people of Ontario rely on. It’s as simple as that.

Scheduling rules that give all the control to management

The LCBO has wanted to make Sunday a regular day of work for years. They knew that if they tried to come after it in bargaining, the members would have fought them on it. Now the LCBO has found a way to push its agenda through the arbitrator’s award on the “equal pay for equal work” complaint.

The good news is, we can fight back. Even the arbitrator was forced to admit that nothing in his award stops the union from fighting any of his changes through the bargaining process. That means that we can take it on and send a firm signal to the employer that we won’t accept these types of attempts to force these changes on members without them having a say at the table.

But the Sunday scheduling changes are just the tip of the iceberg.

The LCBO’s proposals on schedules would make life harder for every worker, full-time or casual, while minimizing the benefits of seniority. Management wants to strip the existing regular shift schedules out of the collective agreement and give managers the ability to pick whatever start and end times they choose, all in the name of “flexibility.” For the sake of that flexibility, the LCBO is willing to sacrifice your time with your family, your work-life balance, and any ability to predict more than a few weeks out what days, and even what times of day, you might be working.

If the LCBO gets what it wants on this, it will make life even worse for casuals by reducing the number of hours they get, as we’re already seeing in the new seven-day-a-week retail schedules.

A better option

It doesn’t have to be this way.

While the LCBO is focused on what they can rip out of the agreement, and how they can make the LCBO a weaker, and meaner place to work, we have a different vision.

We want to improve working conditions and build a stronger and better LCBO – and we have a plan to do just that.

A better LCBO starts with stopping privatization. Ontarians have already lost too much to privatization. The Liberal government is giving up on as much as $500 million a year by privatizing Hydro One. The previous Conservative government cost us $1 billion a year when they privatized Highway 407. And the Auditor-General recently reported that private contractors charged the province more than $8 billion too much for P3 infrastructure projects.

We can’t afford to let the government repeat these mistakes with the LCBO. With the support of members, we’ll keep fighting for anti-privatization language that says the government can’t move ahead with privatizing the LCBO without the public’s okay. We think the public should have the say they didn’t have on Hydro One.

A better LCBO also means job security protections for workers. We’ll fight to keep protections against contracting out the work of our members, and to ensure that anyone who does lose their job gets the severance that they’re entitled to, based on the years they’ve put into working for the company. Not only will we stop their attempts to make job security worse, but we’ll also make improvements, by ensuring that members facing layoff have the right to look outside their geographic area, if they choose, instead of being forced into a lower classification.

A better LCBO means unionized LCBO workers doing LCBO work. If there is work to be done, it should be assigned to OPSEU members who work at the LCBO. This means no more non-union staffing agency workers in the warehouses, and no more fixed term positions in the retail stores or logistics.

And a better LCBO means changes to scheduling that respect the work week, days off, and set schedules so that workers have shifts they can plan their lives around. It also means requiring the employer to schedule hours to the maximum available, so that casuals can get enough hours in a week to make a decent living. Casuals are tired of watching what could be an eight-hour shift get split up into two- or five-hour shifts spread out amongst multiple staff, none of whom get enough hours to get by on. Far too many casuals have no choice but to work seven days a week, just to scrape by.

Queen’s Park visit a success

MPPs express concern about what they’re hearing

Members from across the province came to Toronto last week for a successful lobby day at Queen’s Park. They came armed with strong arguments about the value of the LCBO to Ontarians, and met with 29 MPPs from across party lines over the course of the day. Members took a clear message to MPPs that it’s time to stop the privatization and expansion of alcohol sales, and figure out the consequences of the privatization that’s already occurred. Many MPPs from all parties were concerned about what they were hearing and agreed with members about the need to protect this important public asset.

After a well-attended breakfast put on by the division, the LBED Anti-Privatization Committee, joined by MPP Peter Tabuns, delivered 3,000 post-cards to the Premier’s office. The postcards asked the Premier not to privatize the LCBO, and were collected at 22 information pickets held by locals across the province. As the next step in the union’s campaign to save the LCBO, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and LBED Chair Denise Davis held a press conference to launch the union’s new “SHOP LCBO” campaign, encouraging Ontarians to choose to buy their beer, cider, and wine from the LCBO, where the profits fund important public services.

(See pictures from the rally in the print copy of the bulletin, a link to which can be found at the bottom of this page)

Fill out your Form B

As part of the preparation for a possible strike, members should all be filling out a Form B to ensure they receive their strike pay. Mobilizers are visiting stores with these forms, and a copy can be found on the bargaining website at www.opseu.org/LBEDbargaining

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.

Region 1 

Guy Jeremschuk

David Holmes

Michael Peris (Mar. 24 – Apr. 4, filling in for David Holmes)

Region 2 

Bonnie Jolley

Judy Irving

Region 3 

Tracy Vyfschaft

Eileen Allen

Region 4 

Dianne Perry

Mathieu Royer

Region 5 

Craig Hadley

Nick Papadimitriou

Adriana Bertoni

Region 6

Amanda Pellerin

Judy Jones

Region 7

Rob Mithrush

Anne Makela

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

Stay informed!

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.

Download a copy of the full bargaining bulletin