A public war of words has erupted between the presidents of the LCBO and the union representing employees over widespread delivery delays at provincial liquor stores.

In an exchange of letters, Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), accuses the LCBO of “creating a mess” of implementing a new warehouse management system and raises concerns about the “future direction” of the crown agency.

In response, George Soleas, president of the LCBO, accuses Thomas of making “irresponsible, inaccurate and inflammatory” comments.

The Friday morning letter exchange began with Thomas requesting a meeting with Soleas, and Carmine Nigro, the chair of the LCBO, over the shipping delays that have led to bare shelves during the height of the summer demand.

While the LCBO promised this week that the problems would be resolved by the civic long weekend, Thomas expressed skepticism in the email to Soleas.

“We don’t believe your two week timeline is a realistic goal and we want to know how you intend to achieve it,” Thomas said in his letter.

“The frontline workers who OPSEU represents warned LCBO management both publicly and privately that the new distribution system was implemented too quickly and the results speak for themselves.”

Soleas responded by acknowledging that some of the problems experienced by the LCBO as a result of the technological upgrade were “unexpected,” but stressed that the new system is critical to customer service.

“Updating legacy systems is a requirement for major retailers and, as with any major technology implementation, there were impacts – some anticipated and some unexpected,” Soleas wrote.

Soleas also wrote that he is “confident” that the agency will return to a “regular delivery schedule” by the August long weekend.

Thomas also accuses the LCBO of intentionally botching the rollout in an attempt to make a case for privatization.

He said that recent events “invite speculation that this is a deliberate attempt to create a crisis in order to justify privatization of a system that has faithfully served Ontarians for generations,” Thomas wrote.

In a curt response, Soleas denied the accusation before alleging Thomas was trying to politicize the issue.

“We would never knowingly make decisions that put the customer experience or best interests of our people at risk,” Soleas wrote.

“The LCBO has heard with disappointment the irresponsible, inaccurate and inflammatory comments you have made in recent weeks concerning the implementation, and your attempts to politicize this issue.”

Thomas says he’s “astonished” by the LCBO’s response.