Why I'm voting YES: what's at stake this round
Two months ago, the OPSEU bargaining team sat down with the employer's team and exchanged proposals. From day one, it was clear to me that the sides had two very different visions for the future of the LCBO.
Over the weeks since, we've met a number of times, and with every discussion the distance between these two visions has become clearer.
The employer's proposals look like they've been ripped out of the past. Full of anti-worker proposals, management demands for "flexibility," and a slash-and-burn approach to bargaining, they would lead to a weaker and meaner LCBO that would be worse for both workers and Ontarians in general.
Our team's vision, on the other hand, is of what we know the LCBO has the potential to be – a world leader not only in knowledge and sales, but in setting the standard for the kind of working conditions we want to see for every worker. Our proposals are designed to save the LCBO – not just the LCBO we have, but the stronger and better one that we know is possible.
To get there, however, we need to show the employer that members across Ontario are willing to stand up for this vision of a better LCBO. That means a strong strike vote is needed on Monday and Tuesday.
In this bulletin you'll find an overview of what's on the table – how our proposals will lead to a better LCBO, and how the employer's proposals would make it worse. Once you've seen what's at stake, I hope you'll join me in voting "YES" on Monday and Tuesday, to give our team the strength to make that better LCBO a reality.
Chair, LBED bargaining team
Strike vote information online
Information on vote locations, as well as answers to some commonly-asked questions about the strike vote process, have been posted at www.opseu.org/LBEDbargaining. Please review the information, and confirm, in advance, where and when you will vote. If you have questions that are not covered in the Q&A document, please contact us at LBEDbargaining@opseu.org.
What a better LCBO looks like: here's what's on the table
The full non-monetary opening proposals from the employer and the union can be found on the OPSEU website at www.opseu.org/LBEDbargaining. Below however, is an overview of the key proposals on the table and what's at stake in this round.
In the context of the Liberal government's introduction, and now expansion, of private alcohol sales in grocery stores, you would think the LCBO would be looking to strengthen itself to oppose further privatization. Instead, the employer's proposals are designed to make it easier to further privatize our work.
For example, the LCBO is trying to eliminate the Letter of Agreement re: Contracting Out that prevents management from contracting out bargaining unit work if it would lead to the layoff of permanent full-time employees.
We don't know what they have in mind for contracting out. It could be sending Head Office IT jobs to data centres in other countries, it could be contracting a company like Amazon to operate parts of our logistics and warehousing, or it could be any number of other jobs put at risk. What we do know is that the only reason to remove this letter is to allow the employer to contract out our work, and lay off our members. This letter protects our workers from losing their jobs – if the LCBO thinks we're giving that up without a fight they've got a real surprise coming. We've told the employer that the removal of this letter is a deal-breaker for us.
The LCBO is also pushing to keep the exceptions to the Letter of Agreement re: Agency Stores thatit got through the Kaplan award. The employer wants the ability to convert retail stores to agency stores anywhere in the province, handing over more public revenue to private corporations. We are very concerned about the employer's intentions around closing existing retail stores, which suggests a change in how the government sees the agency store program. Until recently, the Liberals had highlighted the fact that they hadn't opened new agency stores since their election – but now, the LCBO's actions suggest the government might be looking at expanding the program again.
On the other hand, our team knows that a better LCBO starts with stopping privatization. That's why we're proposing strong new anti-privatization language at the bargaining table. After watching what happened with Hydro One, we know this government can't be trusted to look out for the public's interest when it comes to our public assets. So we're proposing language that would mean the government can't move ahead with privatizing the LCBO without the public's approval. We think Ontarians should get the say they didn't have on Hydro One.
A better LCBO would mean showing respect to the workers who have invested their time and loyalty in the LCBO for decades, and giving them some degree of job security. But what we're seeing from this employer is just the opposite.
Not only is the LCBO trying to make it easier to contract out work and lay off members, another proposal extends the attack on workers to severance language. The employer is proposing slashing the severance that workers are entitled to by changing the language in Article 12 and Article 42 to only count the years that workers were in permanent positions. This would radically reduce severance, especially when it's not unusual for it to take more than 15 years for a casual to make it into a permanent full-time position.
While this makes it cheaper for the employer to lay off staff, it doesn't make for a better workplace. Instead, it throws the loyalty shown by long-time workers back in their faces.
Our team is fighting against these attacks, and for job security. We have put forward proposals to improve the layoff language in Article 6 to allow members to choose to look outside their geographic area when a layoff happens. If members are willing to look outside their geographic area, they should have the option rather than having to move into a lower classification or a casual position.
The choice of a better or worse LCBO is also clear when it comes to what the two sides are proposing around harassment and discrimination language, and changes to the grievance process.
The employer is proposing changes to the grievance process that would require workers to provide details on grievances during the first step of the process. That might sound like a small thing, but it just happens to be the one stage where the member has no steward or union rep present. With this change, managers could require members to hand over details to use against them, with no one from the union there to look out for them.
We've already seen the employer demanding well beyond what is allowed when it comes to the new Sunday accommodation form. With this change we could see the same thing happening when it comes to the grievance process.
On the other hand, we've proposed changes to fix the broken grievance process that has created the current backlog of grievances. We want to overhaul and speed up the process in Article 28, and make changes to Appendix 2: Mediation-Arbitration Process to deal with grievances so members aren't left waiting. We've proposed removing stage 3 of the grievance procedure, and making mediation/arbitration the default for cases that don't involve dismissal, sexual harassment, human rights or union policy grievances. This will help move the process along, and get members the resolution they need, while our proposals to limit the time that discipline letters remain on file will ensure that a reminder not to be late for work isn't used to deny someone a promotion 30 years later.
It's not only grievance cases that are taking too long. We've proposed significant changes to overhaul the harassment and discrimination language in Article 2, including sexual harassment, which will address the significant concerns about ongoing issues across the LCBO. It's time for the employer to take harassment seriously, and fix the broken system that doesn't go far enough to protect workers, and leaves them waiting months, or years, for issues to be addressed. In a better LCBO, workers will feel safe at work, and they will know that management won't turn a blind eye to harassment, or worse, encourage it.
A better LCBO would also mean scheduling that lets workers spend time with their families. But as if the employer's recent attacks on workers through the forced changes to Sundays in the Kaplan arbitration award weren't bad enough, the LCBO is proposing to take those changes in retail stores and apply them to all departments. The employer wants to move to seven-day-a-week operations at Head Office and Logistics, as well as in retail.
On top of that, management is proposing to change Article 7 to end hard-won regular shift schedules and days off, and give managers "flexibility" to pick whatever start and end time they choose, with reduced hours between shifts (down to 8 from 12). The LCBO has also proposed allowing managers to schedule night shift workers to work in multiple locations – for example, requiring someone to work one night in Windsor, and the next night on Pelee Island. If implemented, these proposals would mean no one would know more than a couple weeks in advance when – or, for some people, where – they would be working, and there would be even fewer hours for casuals.
Our team is fighting instead for changes to Article 7 that would create a regular work week for PFTs of Monday to Friday, with regular weekends off that will allow for work-life balance, and time with families and loved ones. We're also fighting to maintain the set shifts that let workers predict when (and where) they're working next.
We have put forward proposals for changes to the language in Article 22 that would set a reasonable limit on the employer's right to transfer workers, recognizing the impact this can have on families. We want to see a limit of no more than two transfers in a single year, and for workers to have the right to challenge if transfers are being used improperly. Finally, we want to end favouritism when it comes to shift and duty assignments. We have proposed changes to Article 1 that would require respect for seniority when it comes to scheduling and the assignment of duties.
Under the current system, our casual workers already face being called in for two-hour shifts, being expected to work seven days a week, every week, and waiting years, or even decades, for the opportunity to move into a permanent position.
Despite this, the LCBO wants to make things even worse for casuals. The employer wants to move to weekly scheduling for casuals, rather than daily scheduling, which will let them schedule hours as they wish, rather than doing seniority-based scheduling on a daily basis. The could mean that the most senior casuals end up scheduled every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with mid-week shifts going to lower-seniority casuals.
Management has also proposed changes to Article 32 that would make it easier to terminate casuals.
Under the current rules, casuals who are unavailable for a short period of time – for example, those who get sick, or have family commitments come up – have some protection from being let go. The employer is proposing shortening the existing three-month limit to 10 shifts – and giving managers the ability to terminate anyone unavailable for longer than that, regardless of their seniority.
Our team thinks that a better LCBO would be one where life was better for casuals – not worse. We've proposed changes to Article 32 that would require scheduling the maximum number of hours available, rather than the current practice of splitting these hours into short shifts assigned to multiple casuals. This would mean that if there were eight hours available to be worked, they would be assigned as a single eight-hour shift to one worker. We have also proposed changes to raise the minimum shift length to four hours, so that workers aren't spending longer commuting than they are working.
Our vision of a better LCBO also means an end to the exploitation of temp agency and fixed-term workers by managers in an attempt to cut costs or avoid hiring. If there's work to be done, these workers should be hired on, or it should be assigned to the union workers who are available. Members shouldn't be going in to work to watch a temp agency worker next to them being paid half a wage to do the same work.
We have also proposed changes to the Letter of Agreement re: Bargaining Unit Work to make sure that managers aren't doing the work of bargaining unit members.
In both of these cases, the answer is simple – if there's union work that needs to be done, union workers need to be paid to do it.
In the last round of bargaining, after a long battle, our bargaining team managed to get the employer to agree to the Letter of Agreement re: Health and Safety that is in the current agreement. Now we see the employer trying to get out of living up to the agreement that was made. The LCBO is proposing removing this letter entirely, and going back to the bare minimum required under the law. Just doing the bare minimum to ensure health and safety for workers isn't a better LCBO – it's a weaker one.
Instead, we're proposing changes to Article 33 that recognize that in a job where workers encounter difficult situations with customers, no one should be working alone. And in cases where it can't be avoided, we're proposing a premium to recognize the risks workers face.
We've also proposed further changes to Article 33 that would provide enhanced training for members of the health and safety committee, expand its scope to address workload analysis and ergonomics, and create a wellness fund for permanent full-time and permanent part-time employees to improve the health of workers.
Just this week, the LCBO was fined for health and safety violations that led to a worker being injured on the job. This just proves what we've been saying at the table: we need to expand the role of the health and safety committee, not slash it.
The choice is clear – we can have the weaker and meaner LCBO the employer is proposing, or the stronger and better one our team is fighting for.
Which future we get is up to you.
To give our team the strength to get the best deal possible we need a strong "YES" vote from everyone at the strike vote on Monday and Tuesday.
Together we can do this – together we can save the LCBO.
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.
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.