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Ford says striking LCBO workers won’t get deal if union pushes to keep Ready-To-Drink cocktails out of grocery, corner stores

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Premier Doug Ford says no deal will be reached with striking LCBO workers if the union representing employees continues to push to keep Ready-To-Drink cocktails out of grocery and convenience stores.

“If they want to negotiate over RTD (Ready-To-Drink beverages), the deal is off,” Ford told reporters at a news conference at a brewery in Etobicoke on Wednesday.

“Let me be very clear. It is done, it is gone. That ship has sailed. It’s halfway across Lake Ontario.”

About 9,000 LCBO workers represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) walked off the job last Friday, shuttering all LCBO stores provincewide.

The union has said that the primary point of contention at the bargaining table is the Ford government’s expansion of alcohol sales in the province.

As part of the expansion, RTD cocktails will soon be widely available in grocery stores and convenience stores across the province. Convenience stores will also be permitted to sell beer and wine as part of the Ford government’s plan.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ford said he has spoken to “hundreds” of frontline LCBO workers in recent days.

“They aren’t worried about this RTD,” the premier said.

“Even the head of the union hasn’t talked to as many workers as I have on the phone, because that’s what I’ve heard. I’ve been on that phone non-stop with them. They want job security, they want benefits, they want wages. And the RTD are still going to be sold at the LCBO. They are still going to be the wholesaler of RTD.”

Ford went on to say that he feels strongly that a deal can be reached despite the fact that the two sides are not currently at the table.

“We didn’t walked away from the table. OPSEU walked away from the table, didn’t even look at the proposal. The workers need to look at the proposal,” Ford said.

“When they want to come back and talk about what their frontline workers want… it is right in the proposal that we gave them that the frontline workers haven’t even seen. So I’ve been sending it over to the workers and they are shocked when they looked at it. And many have called me back and said ‘this is a good deal. Why aren’t we at the table.’”

Speaking to CP24 on Wednesday afternoon, Colleen MacLeod, the chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s liquor board employees division, said the premier needs to come to the bargaining table and reassure workers that the LCBO will continue to operate and bring in revenue to help the province grow.

"Doug calls himself a businessman. And I want to know what business person gives away some of their most profitable products and the largest growing market really right now and gives it away to everybody else. And then will it eventually strip revenues out of the LCBO? We see this," MacLeod said.

"You're trying to talk to our members and tell them that this is not what you're doing. But that's not what we see. And this is not the commitment that you've given to us."

MacLeod said she was frustrated to hear from the premier that the "ship has sailed" when it comes to RTD beverages because it indicates that Ford is not listening to the workers.

"The more profit products that leave our facilities, the less work. The less likely people are going to come to our stores. Revenue will drop for the province. Our jobs will be lost. So this is a major concern," she said.

When asked how the strike could be ended, MacLeod said the premier has to reassure workers how the government plan to make up revenues lost when alcohol sale expands and ensure that the LCBO will still be here for another 97 years.

"You need to guarantee that our members will still be employed. They'll still be able to put food on the table for their families. We'll still be able to pay our mortgages and our rent," MacLeod said. "We have precarious workers all across the province who are asking Doug to commit to them, commit to Ontario workers. This is what we need from Doug Ford."

Earlier this week, OPSEU accused the premier of attempting to undermine the negotiating process by launching a searchable map of where alcohol can be purchased during the strike.

“LCBO workers fully support the mom-and-pop stores and craft brewers, wineries and distilleries and we also encourage folks to go to them. But that’s not what Ford is doing,” MacLeod said in a written statement.

“He is undermining LCBO workers and this strike to hand the alcohol market over to big box store, grocery, and convenience chain CEOs so that alcohol sales can be monopolized by them.”

OPSEU President JP Hornick said the Ford government’s time would be better spent creating maps for more urgent issues.

“What would be a much more useful map is one that tells us where to find a family doctor. What would be a much more instructive map would be one that demonstrates where all the ER closures have been under Premier Ford’s government,” Hornick said.

“A really useful map would be one that shows where the schools are that need repairs.”

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