93% of LCBO workers support strike mandate in province-wide vote, union says
Amara McLaughlin, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, April 25, 2017 11:29PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 25, 2017 11:53PM EDT
An overwhelming amount of LCBO workers have voted in favour of a strike mandate over contract demands on Tuesday night.
This is part of a two-day long, province-wide strike vote for thousands of LCBO staff workers who are bargaining for a new collective agreement.
According to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) which represents 7,500 employees taking part in the vote, 93 per cent of unionized workers supported the mandate.
“I am very pleased, but not surprised,” OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas told CP24 following the decision. “These members are mad and not going to take it anymore … I hope the employer pays attention now”
The strike vote began last month when the union representing those employees said Ontario’s decision to sell alcohol in grocery stores could spell the end of the government-owned alcohol retailer.
This key concern is the government’s ability to quietly get rid of the LCBO, said Warren “Smokey” Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) which represents 7,500 taking part in the vote.
“The collective agreement stands between privatization of a public asset and the government’s desire to give away their asset,” he told CP24 on Tuesday.
For a company which, Thomas said, was “built for Ontarians” would be a lose-lose situation for both the province and the public.
“They will privatize it by nickel and dimes, which is probably worse than selling it outright,” he added. “They are giving away market share to grocery stores, so the government takes in less money.”
The Liberal government aims to have beer, wine and cider available in up to 450 grocery stores by 2020.
When the changes were rolled out last October, the executive director of Drinks Ontario Heather MacGregor said it was a positive move.
“Being able to buy imported and domestic wine in the same place you can buy ingredients for dinner or a weekend away, makes sense for the consumer and the beverage alcohol market in Ontario,” she said in a statement.
This is part of the province’s way it’s “modernizing” how alcohol is sold.
“Our goal is to ensure fair competition and distribution across the province,” reads the Ontario page on beer, wine and cider sales.
But not everyone was satisfied.
“The large majority of Ontarians oppose privatization of the LCBO, but I don’t think everyone realizes that when you start selling wine and six-packs of beer in grocery stores, that is privatization,” OPSEU liquor board employees division chair Denise Davis said in a statement in December.
Tuesday’s vote is part of what the union describes as a “complete lack of respect for workers.”
This includes concerns about job security.
OPSEU says people don’t need to stock up on alcohol just yet because this decision doesn’t mean LCBO workers will be hitting the picket line, Thomas explained.
One of their first stops will be the offices of Ontario Liberal MPPs since it is a publicly-owned agency, he added.
“We go back to the bargaining table,” he told CP24.