LCBO strike deadline approaches

The Canadian Press ~ OBJ
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With a midnight strike deadline looming, the Ontario government is hopeful there won't be a walkout by employees at the province's liquor stores.

(Stock image)

Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the Liberals want to respect collective bargaining rights, but the union representing workers at the government-owned liquor stores must realize there is no money for pay raises.

Sousa says he's not worried LCBO stores could be closed for the Victoria Day weekend because of a strike.

He says he's hopeful and confident the two sides will come to an agreement before the long weekend, which is the unofficial start to summer.

LCBO spokeswoman Heather MacGregor says both sides are still at the negotiating table, which she calls a good sign, adding the agency is cautiously optimistic a deal will be reached in time to avoid a walkout.

MacGregor says LCBO management has a contingency plan to try and provide some service in the event of a strike, but couldn't say which stores could be closed by a walkout.

The union complains too many LCBO employees are restricted to part-time work, with some getting only two-hours a day.

The agency has about 3,700 full-time workers and about 3,800 part-time or casual employees.

Sousa says the Liberals have no intention of privatizing the LCBO, which turned over $1.6 billion to the Ontario government last year, not including taxes.

"The valuation of that agency is as a result of the way it's organized within government," he said.

"To (privatize) would put at risk the degree of its contribution to the province, and we saw that when the Conservatives sold the 407."

Ontario's previous Progressive Conservative government sold Highway 407, the province's only toll road, just prior to the 2009 election in what many observers now consider to have been a bad financial move for taxpayers.

Organizations: LCBO, Conservatives

Geographic location: Ontario

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