Politics
Preparations begin for LCBO strike

Credits: Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/QMI AGENCY

ANTONELLA ARTUSO | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO – Last call?

Unionized LCBO workers were making picket preparations and the public was urged by the liquor retailer to stock up Friday as the clock ticked down on a Victoria Day weekend strike deadline.

While both sides in the dispute held out hope that negotiations would conclude with a collective agreement and not a work stoppage, there appeared to be significant space between their positions.

Warren "Smokey" Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), filed a human rights complaint Friday alleging that the crown corporation was guilty of wage discrimination against female LCBO employees.

The majority of workers at the LCBO are part-time, and the majority of part-timers are women, Thomas said.

LCBO management is pushing for concessions from these employees, who are already earning less than the rest, Thomas said.

"I think they truly believe that a lot of the women just work there for some extra money," he said.

"They work there because they're trying to live."

The management offer currently on the table would never be ratified by OPSEU members, Thomas said.

Heather MacGregor, a spokesman for LCBO, said they were disappointed by OPSEU's claim of discrimination.

The majority of LCBO customer service representatives -- part-time and full-time -- are women who earn $14.94 to $20.27 an hour for part-time work and $22.65 to $26.48 for full-time work regardless of gender, MacGregor said.

LCBO workers, who have enjoyed solid wage increases in recent years, need to be part of the provincial government's efforts to rein in costs, she said.

A strike deadline of May 17, the Friday of the Victoria Day long weekend, has been set but management and the union have scheduled talks right up to that date.

On the OPSEU website, a notice called for strike preparedness.

"As we've emphasized all along we never negotiate with the intention of going on strike. But it is absolutely necessary that we be prepared," the notice says.

Strike or no strike, the LCBO notes that its stores will be closed on the Victoria Day holiday Monday as usual.

"In advance of the first long weekend of the summer, customers are encouraged to shop early for the best product selections," LCBO senior vice-president Bob Clevely said. "Customers entertaining this weekend can avoid any possible service disruptions by shopping our stores early and stocking up."

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