LCBO employees vote 95 per cent in favour of strike action
Published Wednesday, April 10, 2013 7:15AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 10, 2013 1:51PM EDT
TORONTO -- Unionized employees of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a strike should contract talks with the retail giant break down.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents more than 7,000 LCBO staff, says 95 per cent of the members voted in favour of a walkout.
The employees' four-year contract with the LCBO ended March 31 and the two sides have been in bargaining since mid-February without making any progress.
Contract talks are scheduled to resume today and more bargaining dates are set for later this month and in May.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa says he's confident a deal can be worked out, noting the LCBO brings $1.6 billion into Ontario's coffers each year, and helps to support education and health care in the province.
"What we want is what's good for the public," Sousa said Wednesday. "The best deals are negotiated deals."
OPSEU says the key issues include boosting part-time wages and upgrades to health and safety standards.
But Sousa warned the province has no money to spend on any wage increases.
"We've made it clear that there's no more money to go forward," he said. "We're going to hold firm to that because we all want to do our part and we're asking everybody to do the same."
The provincial Crown corporation says it is disappointed but not surprised with the strike mandate.
"It is not unusual for a union to have a strike vote during the collective bargaining process," said Bob Peter, LCBO president and CEO.
He said LCBO was looking forward to getting back to the bargaining table and working toward a fair agreement.
Peter noted that OPSEU had a strike mandate twice before during previous collective bargaining in 2005 and 2009. On each occasion, a new contract was successfully reached without a strike, he said.
OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas said there are "no plans to take job action."
But he added that the 95 per cent vote "should send a pretty powerful message to LCBO management that their own employees are profoundly dissatisfied with the pace of negotiations."