Unionized LCBO workers have voted 95 percent in favour of a strike. The strike deadline has been set for May 17 unless a new contract can be negotiated. Arthur spoke with representatives of OPSEU and the LCBO about the impending strike deadline.
“We don’t apply for strike deadlines lightly but in this case we have no choice,” said OPSEU President Warren Thomas in a release.
Arthur asked why it is important that LCBO provides more full-time work for its employees.
Peterborough LCBO employee and OPSEU mobilizer Rick Woodall says, “Over 60 percent of our members are part-time and a lot of them are working anywhere from two to four hours a day … you just can’t provide for a family on a part-time job.”
The average wage for a part-time employee is $26,000 a year. According to Statistics Canada, the median total income of families in 2010 was $69,860. The average income for “unattached individuals” in 2010 was $32,100.
Woodall says that within the last couple of years, the LCBO has hired more than 800 part-time employees, but only 100 full-time positions.
Currently, the minimum amount of hours for a shift at the LCBO is two. Unionized workers want job security and an increase in the minimum amount of hours one can work during a shift.
They are also concerned about benefits and the LCBO wanting a four year wage freeze.
According to Woodall, there is a “huge difference” between part-time and full-time wages. “They do the exact same job as part-time members. They receive benefits and their wages are much higher than ours. We don’t earn equal pay for equal work.”
Woodall said 60 percent of the union’s 4200 part-time workers are women. He thinks the reason is that “Men can’t support their families on two hours a day so they seek employment elsewhere.”
Woodall has been a part-time employee of the LCBO for ten years and has “no idea” if he’ll ever become a full-time employee. “I have a friend who has worked for 22 years as a part-time employee getting two hours a day.”
LCBO workers were in a strike position in 2005 and 2009, but reached agreements during the collective bargaining process on both occasions. The contract for 7000 unionized workers that was agreed upon in 2009 expired on March 31 of this year.
According to their website, the LCBO made $4.55 billion in sales during 2011-12, which was an increase of 5.6 percent from the previous year. Their profit margin for that year was 50.2 percent. This was the LCBO’s 16th straight year of record sales.
Since the last strike threat in 2009, the LCBO has undergone an expansion, adding 30 new stores and planning another 35 this year.
Sally Ritchie, an LCBO spokesperson, says that during this expansion process, “we have converted 600 part-time jobs to full-time jobs and added 200,000 part-time hours, which means that part-time employees have earned more hours.”
She says that it is not unusual for negotiations to take this long, nor is it unusual for there to be a vote in favour of a strike or a request for a no board report. “Although we are disappointed, we are not surprised by these things.”
Denise Davis, chair of the LCBO employees’ bargaining team, said in a press release, “We continue to negotiate with our employer but very little progress is being made at the table.”
However, the LCBO claims that it has been and remains committed to being at the table. Ritchie says, “There has only been 17 hours of face-to-face bargaining … if somebody hasn’t been at the table, it hasn’t been us.
“We have confidence and are extremely optimistic … about reaching an agreement before the strike deadline.”
Many Ontarians have taken to social media to complain about the strike, but nevertheless plan to stock up if the strike happens. Some Peterborough residents have said that the LCBO employees should be happy that they have any work in Peterborough, which at 10.2 percent has Canada’s highest unemployment rate.
Woodall says, “The LCBO should be a leader in job creation. They earn enough money that they can afford to pay decent wages for a decent job. … People who have money will spend money in their community and that translates into more employment and better jobs.”