LCBO Workers Might Strike

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Bad news, wine and beer (and spirits) fans—LCBO workers could potentially go on strike.

LCBO staff, represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), will be holding a strike vote on April 24 and 25.

Recently, the union asked the province's Ministry of Labour to appoint a conciliator in its contract negotiations with the LCBO.

The major bone of contention? The province's move to allow wine, beer and cider to be sold in select grocery stores across Ontario.

"The context of this round of bargaining is being set at Queen's Park with Premier Kathleen Wynne's ill-advised plan to sell LCBO products in grocery stores," said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "This is creeping privatization, and if it's allowed to move ahead unchecked it will mean the end of the LCBO as we know it before too many years have gone by.

According to Thomas, union members fear the LCBO brand (as we know it, at least) is in jeopardy.

"OPSEU members are fighting to save the LCBO, and we are asking all Ontarians to support our fight," Thomas said. "The LCBO is a public asset that funds all the public services we depend on, from home care to highways. We have to save it."

According to a recent OPSEU statement, the union hopes a neutral third party will move talks forward in light of what it calls "alarming concessions."

"The LCBO is demanding concessions at the bargaining table that are alarming. If accepted, these proposals will weaken the LCBO and that our members cannot and will not accept," said Denise Davis, chair of the bargaining team for OPSEU's Liquor Board Employees Division (LBED). "Our proposals are aimed at building a stronger LCBO."

The union said that job security, scheduling, and health and safety are among several major concerns for the 7,500 LCBO staff members represented by OPSEU.

The OPSEU collective agreement at the LCBO expired on March 31, 2017.

While there's no doubt no one likes the idea of an LCBO worker strike, it's harder to imagine people not supporting the broader availability of select alcoholic beverages in grocery stores. The LCBO provides a specific—and enjoyable—shopping experience, but Ontarians have been clamoring for more booze buying options for some time. Grocery store beer and wine is convenient, if nothing else.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

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