LCBO employees holds information picket outside of LCBO on Howard Ave. in Windsor. May 19, 2017. (Photo by Maureen Revait) LCBO employees holds information picket outside of LCBO on Howard Ave. in Windsor. May 19, 2017. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

OPSEU sets date for potential strike action at LCBO

The union representing Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) employees has set out a plan for strike action if necessary.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) announced on Tuesday that it had received a "no board" report from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, triggering a countdown to possible job action.

In a press conference Tuesday, the OPSEU said LCBO employees will strike at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 5, if there is no deal.

Ninety-seven per cent of LCBO employees represented by the union voted in favour of strike action. Roughly 86 per cent of the membership participated in the vote.

Colleen MacLeod, Chair of OPSEU's Liquor Board Employees Division, said the key issue is protecting LCBO jobs as the provincial government looks to expand beer, wine, and liquor sales.

"Premier [Doug] Ford is trying to sell us a bad deal, one that hands over more of the alcohol market to big grocers and convenience chains like Loblaws and Circle K," said MacLeod. "What will that mean? More expensive booze. Heck, it might even bring in surge pricing."

In December, Ford announced plans to allow grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas stations to sell beer, ready-to-drink cocktails, coolers, and wine. The original plan was to roll out the expansion in 2026, but effective September 5, any licenced convenience store may begin selling beer, wine, coolers, and ready-to-drink alcoholic products.

After October 31, all licenced big-box stores and grocers may follow suit.

The union has made it clear that it does not want a strike, but rather a fair deal that will allow the LCBO to grow, while at the same time providing Ontarians with convenience and choice.

OPSEU President J.P. Hornick said it's time for the provincial government to stop catering to big business.

"Everywhere we look, Doug Ford is finding ways to give our public services, our public assets, and our public revenues, over to big-box stores, CEOs, and billionaires," said Hornick.

The LCBO has indicated that it has always been ready to bargain.

The Crown corporation submitted a request to the union to agree on a third-party mediator, to help bring the two sides closer together and avoid a strike. The OPSEU has agreed.

Talks are expected to continue periodically this week.

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