Talks still flowing to avert LCBO strike



TORONTO -- Both sides were at the negotiating table Monday trying to avert a Victoria Day weekend liquor store strike.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), said LCBO management was sticking to its demand for concessions even though workers would never ratify such a deal.

"Could be better," Thomas said, when asked about the state of the negotiations.

A strike deadline has been set for 12:01 a.m. Friday -- at the outset of the long weekend which marks the unofficial start of summer for many Ontario residents.

LCBO spokesman Heather MacGregor said bargaining took place over the past weekend and there are plans to continue talking right up to Friday's deadline.

Any collective agreement would need to respect the current fiscal climate, she said.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa said he's aware of the situation and has no plans to interfere.

"It is essential that we let the negotiations proceed, take the necessary steps to find common ground between them," he said. "I've made it clear that the envelope of compensation is still where it's at."

PC Leader Tim Hudak, who has proposed putting wine, beer and spirits in grocery and convenience stores, said he believes there should be more choice in liquor retailing.

"The reason this is even a threat as we head into the May two-four weekend is because the Liberals keep caving to the government unions," he insisted. "And the union leaders are going to do their job -- they're paid to try and get the best deal possible. The problem is the taxpayers are stuck with the bills."

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