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LCBO workers set early July deadline for potential liquor store strike |



LCBO workers set early July deadline for potential liquor store strike  |

Workers at LCBO stores across the province will be in a legal strike position as of July 5, as talks with the provincial agency stall and a potential shutdown of liquor stores become increasingly likely.

At an announcement on Tuesday, the union representing LCBO workers said it had received a no-board report from the Ministry of Labour, following a majority strike vote by its members.

The report triggers a countdown that would allow Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) liquor board employees to walk off the job legally on July 5.

“The hope is that we get a deal,” union leader Colleen MacLeod told reporters. “The strike vote got our employer’s attention and we’re hoping that they’ll actually bargain with us.”

Talks are scheduled through this week, with more dates available the week after.

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The union recently accepted a request from the LCBO to have a third-party mediator lead stalling talks to try and break a long-standing logjam.

“We’re looking to ensure our job security language is strong, we’re also looking for an alternate model for alcohol sales in the province… and it doesn’t include having alcohol everywhere,” MacLeod said.

Click to play video: 'LCBO strike: Workers vote overwhelmingly in favour of potential action'

LCBO strike: Workers vote overwhelmingly in favour of potential action

The LCBO said in a statement Monday it was still hopeful a deal can be reached.

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“The LCBO remains committed to achieving a deal at the bargaining table without a strike by employees,” the Crown agency said.

“We have several bargaining dates this week where we will resume negotiations with a focus on achieving a renewal collective agreement with OPSEU that is fair for our unionized employees and helps the LCBO operate efficiently and effectively for Ontarians in a changing marketplace.”

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The talks take place against the backdrop of a move from the Ford government to liberalize alcohol sales, allowing convenience and grocery stores to sell beer, wine and pre-mixed drinks.

The accelerated plan — which will be phased in beginning Aug. 1 — will see 8,500 new locations allowed to sell alcohol, potentially cutting into LCBO revenues. The union believes it is “clear” the policy will force job cuts and store closures.

Click to play video: 'LCBO workers set early July deadline for potential liquor store strike'

LCBO workers set early July deadline for potential liquor store strike

MacLeod said Tuesday that current bargaining talks were “like no other” and accused the Ford government of threatening the publicly funded LCBO with its plan to liberalize the sale of alcohol.

“We believe the LCBO and its workers should be at the heart of the expanded marketplace,” MacLeod said. “Premier (Doug) Ford is trying to sell us a bad deal, one that hands over more of the alcohol market to big grocers and convenience chains like Loblaws and Circle K.”

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OPSEU president JP Hornick said the union was “not looking to have a strike for no reason” and suggested there was still common ground to be found.

“There is still a number of steps that can be taken if the employer is willing to engage,” Hornick said.

“As a matter of fact what we’ve put forward is a proposal that does not see a rollback of the expansion of alcohol sales into corner stores and other extra agencies, protecting that work and ensuring those revenues come back in.”

The Ford government itself suggested, in a statement over the weekend, that the potential strike highlights the need to expand alcohol sales.

“While we hope OPSEU puts consumers first by working constructively at the negotiating table toward a deal, we have never been more committed than we are now to delivering on our promise to deliver more choice and convenience with beer, cider, wine and ready-to-drink beverages in convenience, grocery and big box stores,” a spokesperson for the Minister of Finance said Sunday.

Bargaining talks are set to continue through the week as the two sides look to reach a deal that would avert the potential strike.

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