Unionized workers of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario have set a May 17 strike deadline, meaning workers could walk off the job just before the Victoria Day long weekend.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents more than 7,000 LCBO workers, announced the strike deadline on Tuesday.

In a statement posted on the OPSEU website, the union said it was “frustrated” by the bargaining process with the LCBO and is prepared walk off the job unless a contract settlement can be reached.

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.

The union filed an application with the Ministry of Labour for the May 17 strike deadline.

“We don’t apply for strike deadlines lightly but in this case we have no choice,” OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, LCBO employees voted 95 per cent in favour of strike action.

OPSEU says the key issues it wants addressed in a new contract include boosting part-time wages and upgrades to health and safety standards.

OPSEU spokesperson Greg Hamara said the union’s demands are reasonable.

“The public doesn’t know that 60 per cent of LCBO retail employees are part-timers,” he said, adding that 60 per cent of those employees are women who often work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Hamara said that part-time LCBO employees can be called in for two-hour shifts and make an average of $26,000 a year.

“When you’re talking about a company that earns $1.6 billion in profits, they can afford to do better,” he said.

Casual employees of the LCBO retail and depot stores start at $14.94 per hour and can earn up to $20.27 per hour, according to the latest Liquor Board Employees Union collective agreement.

The last two times LCBO employees threatened job action a strike was averted. However, Ontario’s Finance Minister Charles Sousa has already warned that the province doesn’t have the money to spend on any wage increases.

“We’re not advancing any further funding because we can’t afford it right now,” he said.

Meanwhile Premier Kathleen Wynne said she’s hopeful a deal can be reached.

“We’re going to let the employer and the employees work this out. They are in discussion,” she said.

The LCBO said it was “not surprised but is disappointed,” at the union’s move.

In a statement posted on the LCBO website, the agency said it has only engaged in 17 hours of face-to-face bargaining with the union.

LCBO president and CEO Bob Peter said negotiations are scheduled to continue until at least mid-May, adding that any new contract must be in the “best interest of taxpayers.”

“It must also contribute to LCBO’s ability to generate revenues that help pay for health care, education, social programs and other government priorities,” he said in a statement.

Before the last potential strike in 2009, the LCBO had its biggest day of sales ever, selling $55 million in alcohol in a single day.

With files from The Canadian Press