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Thousands of LCBO workers on strike for 1st time after midnight deadline passes | CBC News



Thousands of LCBO workers on strike for 1st time after midnight deadline passes | CBC News

More than 9,000 Ontario liquor store employees are on strike after bargaining talks broke down between their union and the LCBO.

Leaders of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents the workers, blamed the strike on Premier Doug Ford. The strike deadline set by the union was 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

“LCBO workers are ready to make history,” Colleen MacLeod, chair of OPSEU’s liquor board employees division bargaining team, told reporters at a news conference on Thursday evening. “Tonight, Ford’s dry summer begins.”

OPSEU president J.P. Hornick said the workers want wage increases, more full-time jobs and language in their collective agreement that would protect existing jobs and the future of the LCBO. According to the union, part-time positions make up 70 per cent of the LCBO workforce.

Asked how long the strike could last, Hornick said: “We have a very healthy strike fund… and we can weather a strike as long as necessary.”

On its website, the LCBO said the strike means things will “not be business as usual” and all of its retail locations will be closed for two weeks. If an agreement is reached within the 14-day closure period, it says it will “reopen stores and resume normal operations as soon as possible.”

The LCBO website and mobile app will continue to accept orders for free home delivery during the strike.

If the strike goes on past two weeks, the LCBO said it will open 32 stores three days a week, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, with limited hours. 

WATCH | Union speaks ahead of strike: 

‘Ford’s dry summer begins:’ LCBO workers to strike Friday, union says

Almost 10,000 LCBO workers are set to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Friday, after the Crown corporation failed to meet its demands, their union said. Bargaining chair Colleen MacLeod said at a news conference on Thursday that workers and the LCBO will remain at the bargaining table until a midnight deadline but aren’t hopeful for a deal.

Sale of some drinks at convenience, grocery stores at issue

In a statement following the news conference, the LCBO urged the union to return to the bargaining table.

The LCBO also said the union’s leadership had made it clear at the bargaining table that it would strike “solely over their demand that the government reverse its decision to have ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages (coolers and seltzers) being available in convenience and grocery stores.”

Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s office said in a statement on Thursday it was “disappointed” that the union walked away from the bargaining table before the strike deadline. 

“We urge OPSEU to return to the negotiating table and work towards a deal that prioritizes Ontario consumers and producers,” the statement said.

Speaking at Thursday’s news conference, MacLeod said the bargaining was “like no other.”

“Doug Ford just wants to make life better for his wealthy friends. That’s why he’s wasting upwards of a billion dollars of Ontario’s money to fast-track privatized alcohol sales and hand over more public revenues generated by the LCBO over to CEOs and big box grocery and convenience chains like Circle K and 7-11.”

MacLeod said the union told Ford he was welcome to join bargaining talks and to make a fair offer to avoid a strike.

“We see the writing on the wall under Ford’s plan. We could lose thousands, thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in public revenues,” she said.

Signage of a Toronto LCBO location are pictured on July 4, 2024, ahead of a potential strike deadline.
A LCBO sign is pictured on July 4, 2024. Thousands of Ontario liquor store employees walked off the job Friday after contract negotiations broke down between the workers’ union and their employer, the LCBO. (Alex Lupul/CBC)

‘Nobody wants a strike,’ NDP leader says

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles told CBC News Network on Thursday said the provincial government should have pushed harder to avoid a strike.

“The government should have been at the table until the wee hours trying to get a deal that respects workers and ensures that consumers have access to the LCBO,” Stiles said.

“Let’s face it. Nobody wants a strike, not the workers at the LCBO, not the people who buy from the LCBO, nobody.”

The strike would be the first in the provincial Crown corporation’s history and would limit the availability of some types of alcohol, particularly wine and spirits.

The LCBO, a retailer and wholesaler of wine, beer and spirits in Ontario, has more than 680 retail stores, 389 convenience outlets and 18,000 restaurant and bar wholesale customers.

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