'There is no union in Canada that is better at running strikes than we are.' - OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
Toronto (2 June 2009) - Unionized workers at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) have set June 24 as a strike date to put pressure on the ultra-profitable government agency to negotiate a new contract that curbs rampant abuse of part-time employees.
The employees, who are members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE), voted 93% last month to take strike action if necessary.
Bargaining chair Vanda Klumper says hopes that the vote itself would convince the agency to engage in serious talks were dashed last week when the two sides resumed bargaining.
“It is clear to our bargaining team that the LCBO needs the added motivation of a strike deadline before it will pay attention to what we’re saying,” she adds. "There was no indication that the employer was prepared to address the members’ main priorities."
It is important for all of OPSEU's 6,000 liquor employees across Ontario to prepare for a strike if it comes, she is advising employees.
“We do not want to go on strike but the better prepared we are and the more visible your support for your bargaining team is, the more likely it is that the employer will bargain seriously without us going on strike.”
OPSEU leadership from all locals of the union's Liquor Board Employees Division (LBED) will be in Toronto for strike training this week.
“There is no union in Canada that is better at running strikes than we are," says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas, "and we have won some damn good collective agreements through strike action. What’s more important is that we have won hundreds of contract battles without going on strike – just because the employer knew we were ready to.”
Negotiations are scheduled to resume June 8-10 and from June 15 up until the strike deadline.
LCBO exploiting part-timers
The central issue in talks, which began March 9, is the LCBO’s attack on full-time jobs and its drive to run its operations with a casual workforce with lower pay, no guaranteed hours, no job security, and no benefits. OPSEU says 60% of members in the LBED unit are casuals who earn less than $20,800 a year on average.
“People can’t live decently on that, they can’t bring their kids up properly on that, and they sure can’t think of ever retiring on that. An employer that boasts annual profits of $1.4 billion a year with so few employees has not just the ability but also the responsibility to provide good jobs in communities right across Ontario,” Klumper said when the strike vote was first announced.
“Instead, the LCBO wants to destroy the 2,400 good full-time jobs we do have and is proposing that not one of our members will have a guaranteed, full-time, full-year job. This is just wrong.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE