May 13, 2013 12:17 pm

Unionized LCBO employees open strike offices as deadline looms


TORONTO – The union representing more than 7,000 Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) workers have started to open local strike headquarters across the province ahead of looming May 17 work stoppage.

Another 26 headquarters will open throughout the week.

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“To reach an agreement, the LCBO must address the inequities of part-time work,” said Ontario Public Service Employees Union President Warren (Smokey) Thomas in a press release. “So far, the LCBO is ignoring the glaring wage and scheduling issues for part-time staff. This is unacceptable to us.”

A strike this Friday will be the first in the LCBO’s 87-year history.

The employees’ four-year contract with the LCBO ended March 31 and OPSEU filed an application with the Ministry of Labour for a May 17 strike deadline.

The union says key contract issues include boosting part-time wages and upgrades to health and safety standards.

The province has already said it has no money to spend on wage increases.

The LCBO issued a statement Friday reminding customers to shop early regardless if there is an employee strike or not.

“In advance of the first long weekend of the summer, customers are encouraged to shop early for the best product selections,” said LCBO Senior VP, Retail Operations Bob Clevely in a press release on Friday. “Customers entertaining this weekend can avoid any possible service disruptions by shopping our stores early and stocking up.”

On Friday, OPSEU filed a gender-discrimination complaint against the liquor retailer with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

The union alleges the LCBO has classified retail employees it says commonly work 25 to 40 hours a week as “casual” workers who are paid less and have fewer benefits than full-time staff.

The union says in its claim against the LCBO and the province that 70 per cent of the casual workers are women, many of whom have worked for the liquor chain for more than a decade – something it alleges amounts to anti-female discrimination.

LCBO spokeswoman Heather MacGregor says the complaint is unfounded, adding the majority of full-time retail employees are also women.

-with files from the Canadian Press

© 2013 Shaw Media

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