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LCBO union warns of 'dry summer' as it announces July 5 strike date

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LCBO employees will be in a legal position to strike on July 5, according to its union.

The union representing approximately 10,000 LCBO workers requested a no-board report from the Ontario Ministry of Labour on Tuesday, starting a 17-day countdown to strike on July 5 at 12:01 a.m.

“We chose this date because we did not want to impact the first long weekend of the summer,” Liquor Board Employees Division Bargaining Team Chair Colleen MacLeod said at a news conference on Tuesday.

“Let's make this clear. LCBO employees also do not want a dry Ontario for the summer.”

If no deal is reached in the eight bargaining dates scheduled in just over two weeks, the union said it will go on strike. This comes after 97 per cent of LCBO employees voted overwhelmingly in favour of a mandate to walk off the job. However, MacLeod said the goal is to reach a deal.

The primary point of contention between the Crown corporation and LCBO employees is the Ford government’s expansion of alcohol sales.

“I firmly believe that the government is the one who is directing our employer on how to bargain,” MacLeod said.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is also seeking wage increases that keep up with inflation. Currently, LCBO wages start at $17.65 and go up to about $30 per hour.

With 70 per cent of its workforce employed part-time, MacLeod added that more full-time jobs is a priority in negotiations. 

OPSEU President JP Hornick said the union has put forward an alternative plan to the Ford government’s, which would allow for the expansion and convenience of alcohol sales while protecting good jobs and public profits. At the news conference, Hornick said she could not reveal details of the plan just yet.

“If the government doesn't want a hot dry summer, then they need to look at the alternative plan that keeps the convenience that doesn't roll back on expansion, but just makes sure that it is done in a way that is responsible that protects public money,” Hornick said.

On Monday, the LCBO requested a third-party mediator be brought in to help reach an agreement, which the union agreed to, the liquor retailer said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We do not want a strike at the LCBO,” the statement said.

“Should a strike occur, LCBO has measures in place to ensure continued customer service and will provide updates to our customers and partners.”

The Ford government has announced it is planning to expand alcohol sales in grocery and convenience stores. It begins with ready-to-drink beverages and large-packs of beer at grocery stores as soon as Aug. 1, followed by beer, cider and wine available at convenience stores as early as Sept. 5. 

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