Abuse of casual workers is the key issue. The LCBO makes more than $200,000 a year per worker ($1.6 billion) yet casual workers earn less than $20,800 a year.
Toronto (9 May 2009) - More than 6,000 workers at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) will conduct a strike vote May 20-22 in an attempt to persuade the government-owned agency to negotiate a fair contract.
They have been working without a contract since March 31.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) says the central issue is the abuse of casual workers by the incredibly profitable multi-billion-dollar agency.
"Despite annual profits which exceed $200,000 per worker, the LCBO has aggressively driven down labour costs by eliminating permanent jobs and replacing them with lower-paid 'casual' jobs with no benefits and no guaranteed hours of work," says Vanda Klumper, head of the OPSEU bargaining team.
"Sixty per cent (60%) of LCBO staff now work as casuals with an average annual income less than $20,800. So-called 'fixed term' casuals employed during the summer and in December earn just $10 an hour."
The hiring pattern over the past decade has been even worse - 88% of all unionized workers who have joined the LCBO in the past 10 years are casual workers while 96% of those who have joined in the last five years are classified as casual.
Decent pay and benefits wanted
“The central issue in these negotiations is, ‘What kind of Ontario do we want?’” says Klumper, an LCBO employee in Stratford. “Do we want good permanent jobs with decent pay and benefits so regular people can live decently, or will we accept part-time, insecure, throwaway jobs that don’t allow us to bring our kids up properly or offer any hope for the future?”
Klumper says the final straw came last week when the LCBO tabled bargaining language that would lead to the steady disappearance of the remaining full-time jobs at the agency.
“We don’t accept that a highly profitable employer like the LCBO cannot provide good jobs, and we don’t think the people of Ontario should accept it either,” Klumper said.
OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas is appealing to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to "take an interest" in the negotiations.
“Mr. McGuinty has voiced his support for good jobs for Ontario families on many occasions,” Thomas said. “OPSEU members are keen to have his support.”
OPSEU intends to return to the bargaining table immediately after the strike vote is taken. The union has not set a deadline for the talks.
Massive annual LCBO profits
The LCBO is the most profitable government run liquor retailer in the world.
For the year ending March 31, 2008, the LCBO had net sales of $4.13 billion, including a profit (or dividend) of $1.35 billion transferred to the general revenues of the government of Ontario. It also collected $383 million in provincial sales tax during the year, and sent a further $458 million to Ottawa in federal sales tax (GST).
Over the past five years LCBO profits have totalled nearly $6 billion for the province. The agency operates at a profit margin of 48.9%. LCBO operating expenses as a percentage of net sales totalled only 16.1% during the 2007-08 year.
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