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Public funds turn into private profits

By Nick Seebruch

Published on May 18, 2017

LCBO employees were outside of the LCBO on Brookdale Avenue in Cornwall on Thursday, May 18 to raise awareness about the privatization of alcohol sales in the province (Nick Seebruch/ TC Media).

CORNWALL, Ontario - LCBO employees were picketing outside of the LCBO on Brookdale Ave. in Cornwall on Thursday, May 18 to raise awareness about their concerns over the privatization of the liquor industry in Ontario.

The Liberal government of Premier Kathleeen Wynne began allowing some grocery stores t sell wine, beer and cider two years agoon a limited basis.

In February, the government expanded the program and currently 210 stores in the province can sell alochol.

"The LCBO makes $2.4 billion in annual profits," explained Jeff Scobie, Local President of the 4100 chapter of the Liquor Board Employees Division (LBED) outside of the Brookdale LCBO. "That money goes to Ontario social programs, roads and infrastructure. This privatization means that instead of that money going to the people of Ontario it is going into the pocket of Wal-Mart and other private hands."

Scobie stressed that Thursday's action was an information picket and that they were not protesting the LCBO. Several passers-by honked in support.

the LCBO unionized employees are members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). In March, the union's contract expired and they have since been in heated negotiations with their employer.

In late April LCBO employees voterd overwhelmingly in favour of a strike, but OPSEU is still negotiating and has not yet followed through on that mandate.

"Our position is that the LCBO is a public instituion for the control and safe distribution of a drug," said Warren "Smokey" Thomas, president of OPSEU.

 

The OPSEU bargaining team have been in negotiations since the end of March, and they have made stopping privatization a key part of their strategy.

"You would think the LCBO would be looking to strengthen itself to oppose further privatization. Instead, the employer's proposals are designed to make it easier to further privatize our work," OPSEU said in a statement on their website.

The government plans to expand the list of stores that can sell beer and wine to 450.

 

"Until recently, the Liberals had highlighted the fact that they hadn't opened new agency stores since their election - but now, the LCBO's actions suggest the government might be looking at expanding the program again," the OPSEU statement reads. "On the other hand, our team knows that a better LCBO starts with stopping privatization. That's why we're proposing strong new anti-privatization language at the bargaining table.

"After watching what happened with Hydro One, we know this government can't be trusted to look out for the public's interest when it comes to our public assets," the statement continues. "So we're proposing language that would mean the government can't move ahead with privatizing the LCBO without the public's approval. We think Ontarians should get the say they didn't have on Hydro One."