LCBO union threatens “dry Ontario summer” amid strike talks
LCBO union threatens “dry Ontario summer” amid strike talks

The LCBO may be closed as of July 5 if the liquor distributors’ unionized employees go ahead with their proposed strike. 

LCBO union members voted 97% in favour of a strike if a deal isn’t reached with the Crown corporation by next Friday.

“We chose this date because we did not want to impact the first long weekend of the summer,” said Colleen MacLeod, chair of Ontario Public Service Employees Union during a news conference this week. 

“Let’s make this clear, LCBO employees, LCBO workers, also do not want a dry Ontario for the summer.”

The roughly 9,000 LCBO employees being represented by the OPSEU have been negotiating with LCBO management about the need for more full-time positions and fears around Ontario’s changing alcohol retail laws.  

LCBO staff are worried that the decision by Premier Doug Ford to allow the sale of alcohol in convenience stores will hurt their work hours.

“Premier 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,” said MacLeod. 

“The strike vote got our employer’s attention and we’re hoping that they’ll actually bargain with us,” she added. “We’re hoping to get to a deal.” 

Both the union and the LCBO say they are committed to concluding negotiations before the proposed strike date of July 5. 

Little common ground has been found thus far, however. 

“We do not want a strike at the LCBO,” the Crown corporation said in a statement earlier this month. 

“We continue to meet the union at the bargaining table this week and have dates set to continue negotiations in July.”  

The potential walkout wouldn’t only affect individual consumers, but restaurant and bar owners as well, because they too are only permitted to purchase liquor through the LCBO. 

However, the LCBO maintains that it has measures in place to ensure continued service, including to wholesale customers.

“LCBO would continue to receive and fulfill wholesale orders and beverage alcohol will remain available through the approximately 2,300 private retail points of sale across the province,” said the LCBO in a statement on Thursday. 

“We’re nervous, we’re concerned,” Tony Elenis, President and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association told CityNews on Friday.

“We have not seen the rollout of the details of the plans yet,” says Elenis. “We’re anticipating to meet with them [LCBO] in the next few days. At this point, we are just hoping that there is no strike”

Elenis noted that the LCBO is the industry’s only source of liquor and its main source of wine, whereas beer is primarily purchased from the privately owned Beer Store.

Wine can also be acquired directly from local provincial wineries themselves, as well as beer from microbreweries.

For restaurants and bars, the sale of alcohol is a significant cut of the cake, and those revenues are needed now more than ever as the struggle for many restaurants to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic persists. 

If the strike does happen, it “would be another nail in the coffin,” said Elenis.

Elenis said that 60% of their member restaurants are still not turning a profit since the economy has fully reopened.

Restaurants Canada released a report last fall that revealed that a large number of restaurants across the country had been operating at a loss for six months or more.

According to the report, 34% of restaurants had been operating at a loss since March 2023, compared to only 7% in 2019, another 17% of restaurants said they were only breaking even.

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