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The Echo – Issue 62 – July 2019

Take care. LCBO: Keep it Public
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Message from the President

Doug Ford and his caucus may be taking a five-month summer holiday after creating a terrible mess, but the LBED Anti-Privatization Committee, with OPSEU staff support, are busy preparing our latest effort to push back against the privatization of alcohol sales.

We’re working on a major advertising campaign that will start rolling out heading into the Labour Day weekend.

We hope to remind Ontarians that purchasing alcohol from LCBO stores means they’re supporting public services.

We want people to remember that the revenue that comes from the LCBO helps pay for everything from hip replacement surgery to improving highways in Ontario.

We also will be pointing out to Ontarians the great work you do in keeping controlled substances out of the hands of under-aged drinkers.

We hope this will support the work that many of you are doing on the ground right now, because I know you’re saying the same things to your families and friends, and people in your communities.

We can’t stop the Conservatives from making bad decisions, but we can send out a positive message about the value of shopping at LCBO stores and showcasing the work that you do.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Denise Davis for all the work she has done as the chair of your divisional executive. Denise is retiring this summer after 36 years at the LCBO.

In that time, she has held various leadership positions within the Ontario Liquor Boards Employees Union (OLBEU) and LBED, and has been a tireless and forceful advocate for LBED members.

Denise has served as LBED chair for 10 years and was previously vice-chair. She has been chair of two bargaining teams and vice-chair of a third. She has chaired the Provincial Labour Management Committee and has been a member, chair or co-chair of nearly all of the division’s committees, including Employment Equity, Pay Equity, Grievance, and Health and Safety. She has also served as president of Local 378 at the Durham warehouse.

Denise, you will be missed. I look forward to working with Jennifer Van Zetten, both in her role as the new chair and also as a newly elected Executive Board Member.

I’d like to close by wishing all of you a great summer.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU President

Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg: keepitpublic.ca

With the handover of Hydro One to private interests, the LCBO has become the jewel in Ontario’s crown – or to use a more compelling metaphor, the goose that lays a $2-billion golden egg each year. But more and more, it appears that the Ford government is determined to dismantle it.

For decades, there has been speculation that the government would sell off the LCBO, first under the Harris Tories, and later under Kathleen Wynne, who (very unwisely, as it turned out) took her advice from privatization czar and ex-TD banker Ed Clark. Wynne began the privatization of the LCBO by expanding wine sales to a limited number of grocery stores.

Now Doug Ford has come along and wants to expand wine and beer sales to more grocery stores, and more wine, beer and spirits sales to 200 privately run convenience stores. The result is a double fiscal whammy: an inevitable revenue loss for the LCBO, combined with up to $1 billion in penalties for breaking a contract with the Beer Store. How can this course of action make sense to any rational human being, let alone the government that is supposedly “for the people”?

We simply can’t, and won’t, sit around and wait for any more reckless moves from Doug Ford. We know our information sessions in front of our publicly owned liquor stores have been successful, and continue to be, because our customers are telling us they support the public model and the great work that our customer service representatives are doing in keeping our roads and communities safe – and in helping generate record-breaking profits for the LCBO each and every year.

Our customers and the general public know that those profits support the very public services that we all deserve and rely on. This is the win. But Doug Ford’s scheme to sell alcohol in convenience and big-box stores, where private owners will reap the profits for their own pockets, is not a win for the public. Rather, it’s a sneaky win for his cronies.

I can’t thank you enough for supporting the keepitpublic.ca campaign. Please keep it up! On the site, you’ll find a prepared letter that will go directly to your own MPP. All we need you, your family and friends to do is to click and send. It’s that easy!

I also ask you to go out to the information sessions in front of your community store – there will be activities happening around the province shortly – and sign the petitions your local union representatives have with them. Speak with them – they’re there to talk to you. Ask them how you can help join the fight-back campaign. 

We’ve already presented pages and pages of signed petitions, now building up at Queen’s Park, on your behalf. So be part of stopping the deterioration in LCBO sales – and the revenue that goes to public services. Stop Doug Ford’s reckless plan to give the profits to his pals. We are the union! Together, we will bring Doug Ford to his senses. Again, go to keepitpublic.ca and send your own letter to your MPP. They need to hear your voice! 

You and I know that the LCBO is the gift to Ontario citizens that keeps on giving and supporting our public services. We must act now before it’s too late: Our work must be non-stop, and we need all members to mobilize across the province. Because like Hydro One, once it’s gone, it’s gone for ever.

Before closing, I want to send my appreciation to all of the local union reps who are travelling around to the stores, head office and warehouses to make sure our members are informed and that they know just what kind of threat Doug Ford is to us. Thank you for your dedication and commitment!

In solidarity,

Denise Davis
LBED Chair

What is the Employee Health and Abilities Program?

The LCBO recently announced it will use ReedGroup for the new Employee Health and Abilities Program (EHAP). Below is a list of questions and answers.

1. What is ReedGroup Canada?

ReedGroup CANADA is a third-party provider chosen by your employer to administer employee leaves, including WSIB, injury and illness, return-to-work and accommodation.

The divisional officers and chairs of the Pension and Benefits and Provincial Health and Safety committees, along with their OPSEU staff counterparts, met with the LCBO to review the introduction of a third-party provider to administer WSIB and accommodation cases, as well as assist employees on short-term absences and disability to return to work as quickly as possible.

During a review, a number of concerns/ challenges were noted about the program and its administration, mainly union representation and respect for each employee’s situation. The divisional leadership has been working with the LCBO to address these concerns. While we are making strides in the right direction, more discussions need to be had, despite the LCBO’s decision to roll out the program on May 13.

2. Can the employer hire this company to do this work?

Yes. The implementation of such a provider is a business decision of the LCBO, which is at the discretion of the employer, provided they do not violate the collective agreement (CA).

3. Does this arrangement violate the CA?

No. The union has reviewed the CA, and there is no prohibition from the employer using a third party to handle their disability management.

4. Was the union told about this program ahead of time? If so, why didn’t they stop it?

The LCBO advised the divisional leadership in fall 2018 that they were putting out a request for proposal for help dealing with all aspects of disability management. At that time, it was a conceptual idea and not guaranteed to evolve into anything concrete.

The divisional leaders, along with OPSEU staff, assessed the idea. Seeing that it was something the LCBO was able to proceed with, we made numerous recommendations on how such assistance could be provided in a way that respected the dignity and confidentiality of each member.

The union also raised challenges posed by such an endeavour, based on its experience in other sectors, and made a number of suggestions on how the LCBO could develop a disability management program that benefits the members who need help, without causing hardship or undue stress in the process.

Following a presentation of the final version of the employee guide in April 2019, your divisional leaders recommended a number of revisions before its rollout on May 13.

5. Can the LCBO hand over my medical information to ReedGroup, since it’s protected under PHIPA (personal Health Information Protection Act)? I didn’t authorize it. 

Yes, the LCBO can transfer this information under PHIPA. By contracting out the services of ReedGroup, the LCBO did not violate individual LCBO employees’ right to the protection of their private medical information. Any sharing of the information with ReedGroup was done for the same purpose for which it was provided to the LCBO by the member (for accommodation review and administration). PHIPA allows the LCBO to enter into a legal contract with ReedGroup to administer accommodation review for the members.

PHIPA provides this freedom in subsection 49(1):

Except as permitted or required by law and subject to the exceptions and additional requirements, if any, that are prescribed, a person who is not a health information custodian and to whom a health information custodian discloses personal health information, shall not use or disclose the information for any purpose other than,

(a) the purpose for which the custodian was authorized to disclose the information under this Act; or

(b) the purpose of carrying out a statutory or legal duty. 2004, c. 3, Sched. A, s. 49 (1).

6. Can they override my doctor’s medical notes?

Analysis of your medical information is not a new function in the EHAP. The difference is that now a specialized company that focuses on medial review is assessing submitted medical information, instead of your store manager. Medical information provided to ReedGroup will not be “overwritten.” However, it can be deemed insufficient, and that further information is required. An independent medical exam may be required, as it has in the past. In such cases, the provisions of the CA apply.

Note: Please see information on medical information from the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability.

7. Could I be sent for an independent medical examination?

Article 13.10 of the CA continues to apply:

(a) Where for reasons of health an employee is frequently absent or unable to perform his/her duties the Employer may require him/her to submit to a medical examination at the expense of the Employer.

(b) It is agreed that where the employee is unable to accept the choice of the doctor under 13.10 (a) above, that arrangements will be made to select another doctor who would be mutually acceptable to the employee and the Employer.

8. I have an existing accommodation plan that is working well. Can they change it on me? What if I have a permanent injury?

The union asserts compliance with article 2.3:

Duty to Accommodate

The Employer, employees and the Union agree that they will comply with their duty to accommodate under the Ontario Human Rights Code or due to WSIB.

ReedGroup is tasked with reviewing the existing accommodations that are based on illness or injury and make recommendations to the LCBO on how to proceed. ReedGroup is not the final decision-maker on your accommodation. They are simply a service the LCBO uses to administer accommodation review and make recommendations. They cannot arbitrarily cancel or amend an accommodation, as that is not their role.

ReedGroup specializes in accommodation assessments, and they evaluate accommodations based on industry standards for the type of work each employee performs. In reviewing your accommodation, ReedGroup may ask clarifying questions on the existing accommodation, or they may require further medical information to see if a different accommodation is more suitable for you.

9. I was given a consent form to sign. Am I required to sing it?

The consent form initially sent to LCBO employees was for the purposes of sharing existing medical information, which the LCBO was in care of, for current accommodations. This consent form only gives ReedGroup the right to access the medical information related to your existing accommodation, not any other medical information. For example, if you have an accommodation for hearing impairment, the release form allows for medical information about your hearing impairment to be reviewed. Information about any other illness or injury, such as having had pneumonia as a child, is not reviewed or handed over.

Where a form is signed, the LCBO will transfer that medical information to ReedGroup to conduct an assessment of the accommodation.

Note: Please see information on confidentiality in the accommodation process from the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability.

10. Will ReedGroup contact me directly? Can I involve my union steward in the process?

Employees have the right to have a union rep present at all steps in the accommodation process – from start to finish. ReedGroup needs to respect those requests. No employee should be denied representation, should they request it.

We do not know what questions ReedGroup will ask when they conduct their telephone assessment with LCBO employees. The conversations should be focused on the accommodation or illness or injury that initiated the phone call.

If a member feels harassed, they can end the call at any time and raise the concern with their manager, a union steward or an OPSEU staff representative.

Please remember to carefully read any documentation that you receive about this program. Further, ask questions about anything that you are not clear on before signing any documents and remember to contact your local president and/or OPSEU staff reps to discuss your concerns. As always, we recommend that a union representative be requested at every step of the process, including any phone consultations with ReedGroup.

The LCBO has recently issued a number of letters to employees who currently have an open or existing accommodation on file. Those letters have a consent component for allowing the transfer of each employee’s file to ReedGroup for administration of the accommodation process. While we have heard from a number of members concerned about their privacy as it relates to PHIPA, just like the medical information previously shared with the LCBO, ReedGroup is bound to protect the medical information through the PHIPA legislation.

11. Can I be disciplined for not signing the consent form?

Lastly, you need to be aware that the LCBO has told the union this process is not voluntary, and that failure to comply with the program and its processes could result in reduced or denied assistance with your illness or accommodation needs, depending on the situation.

We don’t want to see anyone put in a situation where they have to choose between getting help and being protected, so we recommend that, if faced with denial of assistance because of your concerns, you use the “comply and grieve” process, as opposed to taking action that could jeopardize your needs or employment.

Questions?

Because this is a new process, we want everyone to be very clear about what is happening with their health and wellness at the LCBO. Please be sure to contact your local union steward, local president or staff representative if you have any further questions.

You may also wish to consult the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate.

Taking action on theft in retail stores

The division continues to be extremely concerned about the thefts and incidents in the retail stores, and we’ve been advocating hard for more attention to the safety measures in all workplaces at all levels of committee tables within the division.

On January 4, 2019, President Thomas sent a strongly worded letter to Premier Doug Ford and Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, with a copy to George Soleas, President and CEO of the LCBO, expressing shock and concern around continued and increasing theft in retail stores, and demanding immediate action.

On April 10, the union and the LCBO sat down to discuss all of our members’ concerns and the initiatives the LCBO has put in place to date. Both parties agreed to create an ad hoc committee to discuss the theft issues and measures to continuously improve employee safety, while still providing a safe and pleasant shopping experience for our customers. The first meeting of this new committee will take place in early August.

Provincial labour management meetings produce results 

The minutes from our 2018 meetings were posted in all workplaces in early April and emailed to all local presidents. Please take a minute to read over the items under discussion. These issues are taking place around the province, and are not sent through the grievance procedure.

One longstanding issue, discussed at both this committee and the Employment Equity Committee, has been the lack of an LCBO general statement of respect posted in our retail stores for our customers to see. We stressed that many companies have such signs posted in hospitals, nursing homes, buses and various retail establishments, such as PetSmart.

We are pleased to share that the LCBO has now produced a statement of respect. It has already been posted in some northern Ontario stores, and once everything is in place, it will be posted in all retail stores. It took a lot of perseverance to see this through, but we trust it will help create better workplaces. Watch for the posters.

CSR Grid Review Committee completes its work

The Grid Review Committee has finally completed the reviews of all of the grid challenges resulting from Arbitrator Kaplan’s ruling in early 2017.

We recognize it took a very long time, and some of you waited until the very end to hear the results of your challenge. Many of you had to go through multiple reviews, due to emerging information.

This review process was no small task, and the committee wants to thank everyone for their great patience and understanding during this lengthy period.

Ken Hughes stumps for more agency stores

In March, the Ford government appointed Ken Hughes, a former Tory Cabinet minister in Alberta – a province that has led the way in removing the government from retail alcohol – as Special Adviser for the Beverage Alcohol Review to make recommendations on expanding the sale of alcohol to corner, grocery and big-box stores – at an eye-popping salary of $1,000 a day.

Hughes, formerly a partner in Alberta Spirits Inc., released a report in May stating Ontario had the lowest retail outlet density of all provinces and recommending:

As an interim step, the government should do everything possible under the Master Framework Agreement to authorize additional alcohol retail outlets.

  • It is time to bring Ontario in line with other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world and make purchasing alcohol more convenient for consumers.
  • While the review has not set a target number of new outlets that should be authorized, the government should aim to bring Ontario closer in line with the national average for retail density.

This is tragic news for Ontario. Instead of reaping these profits and putting them back into public services, the government is squandering revenue by letting private interests pocket it. Under the guise of convenience, this is nothing more than another attack on the LCBO and the public’s control of alcohol sales.

Rather than expanding agency stores, the government should be repatriating agency stores and turning them into LCBO retail stores. If we let Doug Ford and Ken Hughes get away with this, they’ll push their alcohol privatization agenda further and further until, as in Alberta, alcohol is entirely in private hands – and the over $2 billion the LCBO hands over annually to the province vanishes like champagne bubbles.

The report itself recommends that “the government should maintain the LCBO as a valuable government asset. Ontarians feel the LCBO delivers significant benefits to consumers and the provincial treasury. The LCBO should not be privatized. The government should work with the LCBO to help it deliver greater value in a more competitive marketplace, including expanding its role as a wholesaler.”

Please be aware that OPSEU has filed six policy grievances against the employer regarding its announcement of the agency store/convenience outlet expansion. The union believes this announcement violates the bargained language and letters of agreement in our collective agreement. We will fight this erosion of our work on all fronts.

Sisters and brothers, it’s time to fight back against the privatization of the LCBO – fight back hard, and fight back right now. Please support your local in keeping the LCBO in the public hands.

Health and Safety chair’s report by Debbie McGuinness

There has been an important emphasis on our members’ welfare over the last few Provincial Health and Safety Committee meetings. The worker representatives have pushed for a greater effort from the employer to recognize issues surrounding shop thefts and the threat of violence to members in their workplace. We have made recommendations according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and pushed for the employer to recognize the impact this criminal activity has been having on our members’ health and safety.

Until recently, our training was inadequate to address what was happening in the stores. However, we heard late in 2018 that the employer had decided to reassess training on shop theft. This has resulted in a new training program and guidelines, “You are in Control,” which deal with theft from the point of view of the threat of violence in the workplace.

We are very pleased with the results, as we feel the program better recognizes the issues workers experience in stores throughout Ontario. We believe it is more supportive and descriptive in terms of the actions workers should take, and not take, to ensure their safety.

It also explains how customers, unaware of a worker’s responsibility to de-escalate the threat of violence towards others, may perceive a worker’s actions during a theft. Our membership will certainly benefit from this new training as it rolls out in 2019.

A special meeting between the top leadership of OPSEU and the LCBO has taken place to discuss safety and security in stores. The employer was supportive and has committed to better security in each of the stores with high theft activity.

In the last couple of months, we have seen a difference at these high-risk stores, where police officers have been stationed. Having officers at these stores has resulted in a reduction in the amount of crime – and, in some cases, eliminated it.

The union has committed to meet again with the LCBO to further discuss this issue, as we know these criminal activities are moving further out from the large cities, and that further investigation and support is needed. OPSEU firmly believes that store security should be provided by our own members – senior security officers – rather than members of police services.

A pilot project in 10 stores has launched to make changes on how the annual risk assessment is completed. Normally, this form is filled out by the manager. However, the changes give greater involvement to health and safety reps in the store. So far, the feedback has been positive.

As many of you know, bisphenol A (BPA) was removed from cash register rolls many years ago. However, there have been reports that bisphenol S (BPS), which may be used to make these paper products, can also be a cancer-causing chemical. We have asked the employer to investigate this. Hopefully, we will be updated soon on the verdict regarding the BPS in the products workers handle, so that we can update the membership.

We are also pleased that there will be an annual communication update from the Provincial Joint Health and Safety Committee. This will be included in the HR Communications Strategy and will start in January. This should help all LCBO workers feel safer in their workplace, given the progress that is being made at the committee.

Pension and Benefits report by Shelly Robitaille, Pension and Benefits Committee

Planning to retire?

You’ve worked hard for years, saved wisely, and now you’re ready to move into retirement – whatever that means to you.

While you’re embarking on a new phase in your life, remember, you’re leaving behind a job, with years of experience to share and stories you will never forget.

The Pensions and Benefits Committee has been hard at work to help make this a smooth transition. The decision to retire is very significant, and you should start planning at least six months in advance. This helps you be comfortable with your decision, before making things formal and tying up loose ends.

We have attached retirement information for you directly from OPTrust’s website. Click on “Members” then, on the side, choose “Planning for Retirement.” This information will need to be completed to move forward with your retirement planning.

The links are all listed on the following pages. Hold down Control on your computer while clicking the link.

What you need to know

What about other government pensions?

How to start the process

Inform your employer and OPTrust of your retirement date.

  • Attend a pension information session.
  • Complete your employer’s forms and OPTrust’s forms.
  • Ensure that OPTrust has all the necessary documents from you to process your pension, including: 
  • Use the pension estimator in your Online Services account to determine your pension entitlement at various ages, or request a pension estimate. Continue to use the retirement income calculator to estimate net income.

Forms you must complete

Please complete and submit these forms and documents to OPTrust as soon as possible:

Background material for more information

Government websites with pension benefit information:

If you have any questions, contact our members on the Pensions and Benefits team.

A Farewell message from Denise Davis

Dear friends,

I have finally reached my eligible retirement date, and I’ve got to confess: I’m really looking forward to spending more time with my family and friends – there’s so much to catch up on!

But as I prepare for retirement and the newest chapter of my life, I’ve had some time to reflect on my 36-year career at the LCBO and as a union activist. We have experienced many challenges and triumphs, but I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside some of the fiercest and most dedicated people. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Thank you to all the members of the division for putting your trust in me as division chair these past 10 years and as vice-chair before that. It has been an absolute honour to serve you, and I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made, together.

For the past 25 years, I have volunteered my time working in the union – both with the OLBEU and OPSEU. When I was first hired as a fixed-term worker in 1983 at the LCBO, I was so happy to be employed, especially by a large Crown corporation, where I saw lots of potential for career growth. But I quickly noticed a real lack of fairness and injustice in my workplace, and my aspirations changed. I became dedicated to fighting for a better workplace for all, no matter whose feathers got ruffled.

From a young age, I’ve always felt compelled to stand up for the underdog and fight back against injustice – it’s probably why the union interested me so much. Each year has brought its own challenges and rewards, but I can honestly say that we didn’t sit idle. We’ve been full-steam ahead at the bargaining table and beyond, and our fight must continue in the years to come.

My goal in bargaining has always been simple: to fight to improve existing language and to create new language and entitlements that future generations of activists could build on. And I’m so proud of the work we’ve done.

Now, as I pass the torch, I’m hopeful that our foundation is rock solid. I know that our future leaders have the skills, knowledge and determination, but I also wish for them the confidence to chart a bold course forward and to continue our fight for better workplaces and a better province.

My activist spark hasn’t fizzled, and you haven’t seen the last of me, but I do look forward to spending more time golfing, painting, travelling, sitting by campfires and spending plenty of time with my husband, Glen, my two sons and their wives, and my five grandchildren.

I want to thank OPSEU’s leadership, including Smokey, Eddy and the entire Executive Board, for their ongoing support of the LBED Division. Special thanks to all the LBED local presidents for your support and kind words, to the division executive for your ongoing support and kind gifts, and to Local 165, Local 378 and the All Chairs Committee for your thoughtful gifts – and the cake! Thank you to the OPSEU staff who have worked with LBED – your hard work is so greatly appreciated.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank you – each and every member of LBED – for the work you do every day in your workplaces, your communities, in OPSEU and in Ontario. You’ve been an inspiration, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I will miss this work and all the dear friends I’ve made along the way, but I can’t wait for the adventures ahead. Keep up the good fight, and take care.

In solidarity always,

Denise

Liquor Board Employees Division
Divisional Executive

Jennifer Van Zetten (L162), Chair, jennifervanzetten@outlook.com

Colleen MacLeod (L5107), Secretary/Treasurer, lbedsecretary@rogers.com

Jamie Kensley (L681), Chair, Anti-Privatization Committee, jamienji@gmail.com

Shelly Robitaille (L162), Chair, Benefits and Pensions Committee, srobitaille77@hotmail.com

Craig Hadley (L5109), Chair, Education and Communications Committee, craigh22@gmail.com

Deborah McGuinness (L5110), Chair, Health and Safety Committee, debbiemcguinness01@gmail.com