LCBO strike vote 93 per cent

Volume 27, Issue 5
May 2017

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On April 25, 2017, Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) staff voted 93% in favor of a strike, as the staff’s union continues to bargain for a new collective agreement. With such unanimity among the members, the union hopes the employer will start taking bargaining more seriously.

Although we, full-time and partial-load academic faculty, belong to a completely different sector, our issues are not all that different. Like us, the LCBO staff want a fair and reasonable agreement and have a number of issues to negotiate with the employer.

The LCBO is publicly-owned, meaning the profits earned by LCBO stores go back into government programs and initiatives. Premier Kathleen Wynne changed that when she announced certain alcoholic beverages would be sold in grocery stores starting in 2016. Research and history have shown that privatization of publicly-owned establishments will end up costing tax-payers more in the long run (for example, see the Auditor-General’s 2016 report summary). This trend of privatization is not new: we saw it happen with the sale of Hydro One (thanks, Kathleen Wynne), Highway 407, the privatization of garbage removal in the city of Toronto, and even here, in the college sector. Just last year, McDonald’s began its business training program that allows McDonald’s employees to “teach” students business curriculum, which is eligible for credit transfers into post-secondary business programs.

Another commonality we have with LCBO is the large number of precarious workers in our workforce. The LCBO employs mostly casual (part-time) workers, similar to our 70/30 (contract/full-time) ratio. Up until last year, casual workers were compensated at a lower rate than full-time workers (sound familiar?). However, a February 10, 2017 arbitration award granted equal pay for both full-time and casual retail workers. This award meant an average of almost 10 per cent pay increase for casual workers, and the creation of 200 new full-time jobs.

Equal pay for equal work sounds reasonable and fair, but unfortunately, is not practiced in Ontario colleges. The solidarity and perseverance of our brothers and sisters at the LCBO brought improved working conditions to the workers, and perhaps, an improved new collective agreement.

As we begin bargaining in a few short months (and likely continuing into the fall), solidarity among our members is essential. Remember that a strike vote does not mean a strike is coming, but instead, that members feel strongly that management takes their demands seriously.