Clear communication for successful
A guide to talking to the public for OPSEU members at the LCBO
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May 29, 2009 edition
The central issue in these negotiations is, ďWhat kind of
Ontario do we want?Ē Do we want an Ontario with good permanent jobs with
decent pay and benefits so regular people can live decently, or will we
accept temporary, part-time, insecure, disposable jobs that donít allow us
to bring our kids up properly or offer any hope for the future?
Our communities need good jobs now more than ever, and
thatís what weíre fighting for. We want to stop the LCBO from destroying
2,400 good permanent full-time jobs and we want to create good jobs for more
than 3,600 casual members who are struggling to survive. Itís what our
families need, itís what our community needs, and itís what our province
The LCBO is getting rid of good permanent jobs and replacing
them with insecure, casual, throwaway jobs. In bargaining, the LCBO has
tabled a proposal that would mean that not one front-line LCBO employee
would have a guaranteed, full-time, full-year job. As it is, 60 per cent of
LCBO employees are casuals who make less than $20,800 a year on average.
This is wrong. You canít bring kids up properly on half a job. You canít
build a decent life on half a job.
The LCBO is in a position to create good jobs, and it should
do so. The LCBO makes more than $200,000 a year in pure profit from each
employee. The LCBO has not just the ability, but the responsibility to
create good jobs.
When workers have good jobs, they spend money, and when they
spend money they create jobs. When working people do well, business does
Our members are facing the same struggles as millions of
other Ontarians who are struggling to survive on part-time, temporary,
insecure jobs of one kind or another. You canít bring your kids up properly
on jobs like that. You canít live a decent life. You donít even think about
retiring. You donít even think about owning a home. Our communities need
Possible answers to questions you might be
1. What are the issues in this round of bargaining?
The central issue in these negotiations is, ďWhat kind of
Ontario do we want?Ē Do we want an Ontario with good permanent jobs with decent
pay and benefits so regular people can live decently, or will we accept
temporary, part-time, insecure, disposable jobs that donít allow us to bring our
kids up properly or offer any hope for the future?
Our community needs good jobs now
more than ever, and thatís what weíre fighting for. We want to stop the LCBO
from destroying 2,400 good permanent full-time jobs and we want to create good
jobs for more than 3,600 casual members who are struggling to survive. Itís what
our families need, itís what our community needs, and itís what our province
2. What is the earliest
possible date a strike or lockout could occur?
On May 29, the union bargaining
team applied to the Ministry of Labour for a ďNo BoardĒ report and set the clock
ticking towards a legal strike deadline of June 24, 2009.
3. Does this mean there will
definitely be a strike?
No. The unionís goal is to
negotiate a collective agreement without a strike. The LCBO and OPSEU have
scheduled bargaining dates for June 8-10 and from June 15 up to the strike
4. Why did the union set a
The union set a strike deadline as
a way to motivate the LCBO to take the membersí issues seriously and get down to
bargaining a collective agreement.
5. Has the union already
held a strike vote?
Yes. In voting May 20-22, 93 per
cent of OPSEU members at the LCBO who voted voted YES to give their bargaining
team the authority to call a strike if necessary to achieve an acceptable
agreement.. Voter turnout was 3,672 people, the highest on record for this
bargaining unit of 6,000 workers.
6. Arenít jobs at the LCBO already good jobs?
Right now we have about 2,400
permanent full-time jobs at the LCBO, and these are good jobs, but the LCBO
wants to destroy them. In bargaining, the LCBO has tabled a proposal that would
mean that not one front-line LCBO employee would have a guaranteed, full-time,
full-year job. As it is, 60 per cent of LCBO employees are casuals who canít get
regular hours and make less than $20,800 a year on average. This is wrong. You
canít bring kids up properly on half a job. You canít build a decent life on
half a job.
7. Donít you think this is
the wrong time to be asking for improvements?
What our community needs right now, more than anything, is good
jobs, and thatís what weíre bargaining for. Our approach is a positive response
to the recession. When workers have good jobs, they spend money, and when they
spend money they create more jobs. When working people do well, business does
well. We need good jobs, and the LCBO Ė more than any other employer in Ontario
Ė is in a position to create them.
8. In times like these, shouldnít you just be happy to
have a job?
Obviously it is better to have half a job than no job at all,
but half a job is not enough. People need to live.
9. What do you mean by a good job?
It means something different for everybody. It means being able
to buy nutritious food, it means being able to fix your kidís teeth, it means
being able to schedule your life so you can actually spend time with your
family. These are basic needs weíre trying to meet. Our members are facing the
same struggles as millions of other Canadians who are worried about losing
full-time work or already work in part-time, temporary, insecure casual jobs.
You canít bring your kids up properly on jobs like that. You canít live a decent
life. You donít even think about retiring. You donít even think about owning a
home. We need good jobs.
10. How profitable is the LCBO?
Last year the LCBO made $1.345 billion in profits and sent an
extra $382 million to the province in taxes. To put it in perspective, thatís
about $200,000 a year in income for the province from every single worker Ė no
matter how few hours he or she worked.
In its annual report tabled on May 21, 2009, the LCBO said its
dividend to the government would rise to $1.4 billion Ė a $55 million increase
in profits. Taxes to the government will no doubt increase as well.
11. How many good jobs are you hoping to create?
Well, thatís what weíre bargaining about. Across Ontario right
now we have at least 3,600 casuals at the LCBO, and we think they should all
have good jobs. Because thatís what our community needs.
12. Are you really creating new jobs, or just improving
Both. We do want to see more hours available, which would create
new jobs and provide better service to our customers, but we also want to
improve existing jobs. For a lot of our people who are casuals now, getting a
permanent job would fundamentally change their lives. It will be just like
getting a new job. Weíre also fighting to protect the good permanent jobs we
13. Whatís wrong with being a casual? Donít some people like
having the flexibility to work just a few hours a week?
In retail there is always some need for part-time positions, and
there are some workers would rather work part-time. But nobody wants to be poor.
Nobody prefers to work at reduced wages with no benefits in a job where you have
no control over your hours. We need good full-time jobs, but we need good
part-time jobs, too.
14. The LCBO says it needs the flexibility to hire more staff
at peak periods and reduce them when business is slower. Why should the LCBO
create more full-time positions when they only need extra staff at peak
The LCBO has always had permanent full-time positions, and in
recent years LCBO stores and warehouses have increased their hours of operation.
So the LCBO is able to create full-time permanent jobs. In retail there is
always some need for part-time positions, but there is no reason these part-time
jobs canít be good part-time jobs with decent wages, pro-rated benefits, and
15. If you create more full-time jobs, wonít that take hours
away from the casuals you say youíre trying to
The LCBO has been seriously understaffed for a long time and has
cut back even more lately. We have people working alone in stores at night, we
have people unloading trucks by themselves. Weíre worried about the safety of
our people because of understaffing. In retail we donít have enough staff to
guard against theft. Our goal is to have more hours available so that our
customers get better service, the LCBO saves money, and our casuals can have a
16. If you get better jobs, wonít that just take money away
from public services?
OPSEU members at the LCBO are really proud that our work raises
money for the public services Ontarians need. But in the end you canít pay for
public services if your economy is built on insecure, casual, throwaway jobs.
When people have good jobs, they spend money, they create more jobs, and they
pay taxes. Thatís how you pay for public services Ė with good jobs.
17. The LCBO says you have the highest wages in
retail. How can you be asking for more?
Actually, the LCBO has pushed wages down to the point where
wages for casuals are not much different from wages right across the retail
sector. Fixed-term casuals get $10 an hour. New casuals get $13.84 an hour.
Thatís less than the average wage for retail in Canada, which is $14.87 an hour
according to Statistics Canada. The average wage for an LCBO casual hired since
2002 is $15.95 an hour Ė certainly not high when you consider the average LCBO
casual only works 20 hours a week.
18. The LCBO says it employs more full-timers and
uses fewer casuals than the rest of the retail sector. Why should you have more
full-timers than similar retail operations?
The LCBO is not telling the truth. The retail sector (including
stores, offices, and warehouses) in Canada is about two-thirds full-time jobs,
whereas the LCBO is 60 per cent casual. Even Loblaws plans to convert up to
10,000 part-time jobs into permanent full-time jobs. Thatís what our communities
need. Another aspect of this is that since 2008, more Canadians now work in the
retail sector than work in manufacturing. Obviously we need policies to boost
manufacturing, but with so many workers in retail now, we need to start bringing
retail wages up right across the economy.
19. What is your wage demand?
Right now the issue of good jobs is such a high priority that we
havenít even tabled a proposal for a general wage increase. Our whole focus is
on good jobs.
20. Would you accept a two per
cent wage increase?
Obviously thatís a discussion for
the bargaining table. But for us, the overall issue of good jobs is such a high
priority that we havenít tabled a specific number for a general wage increase.
Our whole focus is on good jobs.
21. Some people think that if
you donít like the jobs you have, the government should just privatize the LCBO.
How do you answer those people?
Some people see privatizing the
LCBO as a way to enhance their personal fortunes, but there is no business case
for privatization. Privatization destroys good jobs, and what our communities
need right now is more good jobs, not fewer.
Privatization is poor public policy
for two other reasons as well.
a) First, alcohol is a
controlled substance, and uncontrolled access to it will mean more health
problems and more deaths due to alcohol abuse. Other countries are studying the
LCBO as a model of responsible alcohol management. The Ontario Public Health
Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the Centre for Addiction and
Mental Health have all opposed privatization.
b) Second, the LCBO is a
significant source of steady income for the Ontario government. It pays for
public services and helps keep taxes low. It makes no sense to give that income
to private investors in exchange for a one-time windfall.
22. Didnít I hear something in the news lately
about LCBO employees receiving free gifts and swiping Air Miles that didnít
belong to them? Why should people support you if you canít even be honest?
Right after the union asked its members for a strike vote, the
LCBO began a smear campaign against us to divert attention away from its plans
to destroy 2,400 permanent full-time jobs and create even more part-time,
temporary, disposable jobs.
These are the facts:
a) The LCBO has had a policy against employees accepting
freebies from suppliers for over a year (although this policy was only brought
in after CEO Bob Peterís daughter had her university tuition paid by the
Association of Canadian Distillers). Our members follow the policy. The news
that came out May 11 Ė the Monday after OPSEU announced the strike vote at the
LCBO Ė made it sound like there was a new policy. Apparently the LCBO neglected
to tell reporters that CEO Bob Peter had already announced the policy in a memo
dated July 2008.
b) With respect to Air Miles, any workplace can have a few
bad apples who donít understand or donít follow the rules, but the LCBO staff
working today are honest people who work hard to provide the best service
possible to all customers.
We are very disappointed that the LCBO decided to attack its own
workers, but we are not going to be distracted from our fight for good jobs.
23. Arenít you afraid of inconveniencing the public if
you go on strike?
We donít want to go on strike. We like our customers, they like
us, and we donít want to inconvenience them in any way. But when it comes to
good jobs, what we are saying is in tune with what the public wants.
Authorized for distribution by Warren (Smokey) Thomas,
Ontario Public Service Employees Union
100 Lesmill Road, Toronto, Ontario M3B 3P8