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Speaking notes for Vanda Klumper, Chair, 2009 LBED bargaining team

Speaking notes for Vanda Klumper, Chair, 2009 LBED bargaining team

We the North
We the North
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Strike vote announcement news conference, May 8, 2009

Good afternoon, and thanks for coming out today.

My name is Vanda Klumper. I’m the chair of the Liquor Board Employees Division of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, and I’m also the chair of the union’s bargaining team

In my real job I’m a customer service representative at the LCBO store in Stratford.

With me today are Smokey Thomas, president of OPSEU, all the members of our bargaining team, and some of our top staff.

As you know, we have called a strike vote and are asking our 6,000 members for their support so that we can go back to the bargaining table and get the collective agreement we need.

We’ve invited you here today to provide some background information and to update you on what’s been happening at the bargaining table.

First of all, our collective agreement with the LCBO expired on March 31 of this year. We began bargaining March 9 and since then we have spent some 25 days at the table.

Despite our best efforts, it is now clear that the two sides have vastly different philosophies and that no real progress is possible without a strong show of support from our members in the form of a strike vote.

The central issue in these negotiations boils down to one thing: “What kind of Ontario do we want?”

Do we want an Ontario that has good permanent jobs with decent pay and benefits so regular people can live decently? Or will we accept part-time, insecure, throwaway jobs that don’t allow us to bring our kids up properly or offer any hope for the future?

Most people look at the LCBO and think, “Wow, what a great job – rich employer, good wages and benefits, a pension plan – not bad!”

But the reality of working at the LCBO is very different from the public perception.

Thirty years ago, every single job at the Board was the job I have just described. But a lot has changed.

In 1980, the LCBO began to use temporary staff, which we now call casuals

Casuals now represent more than 60 per cent of the LCBO’s workforce. Casuals are paid much less than permanent staff, they don’t have benefits, they can’t afford to pay in to the pension plan, and they have no guaranteed hours of work.

The life of a casual is about waiting to be called in to work. It’s about not being around while your kids are growing up because you’re working late and on weekends. It’s about not being able to plan anything because the LCBO demands that you be available for work for every hour our stores, warehouses, and offices are open.

I know – I was a casual for 15 years.

In 1996, the LCBO introduced a new kind of casual called the “fixed term” casual. Like other casuals, they have no benefits and no guaranteed hours. They work in December, and they work in the summer.

This summer the LCBO expects to have about 1,500 fixed terms on the job. They get paid $10 an hour.

In 2002, the LCBO decided that any casual hired after August 31 of that year would never be allowed to reach the top of the casual pay grid.

The typical OPSEU member hired since that day makes $2 an hour less than the ones hired before that day.

Right now, today, we have a four-tier wage structure in place in our retail stores and similar problems in our warehouses and at the LCBO Head Office on Lakeshore.

At the top tier we still have some pretty good jobs. These are full-time, permanent, decently-paid jobs with benefits and pensions.

Like casuals, full-timers have to deal with the challenges of working at the LCBO.

For most of us, it’s normal to load 800, or a thousand, or 1300 cases onto a truck or off a truck in a single day. The stock in all those cases has to be put on the shelves, and it has to be rung through the cash when it is sold.

Within the course of our work day, we deal with intoxicated people, thieves, and would-be underage drinkers. It’s not always easy. All the same, if you’ve got a permanent job at the LCBO, you’re mostly doing all right.

The LCBO wants to destroy these jobs.

In bargaining last week, our employer tabled a proposal which would mean the end of the full-time, permanent, year-round job in our stores, our warehouses, and our offices.

Under the LCBO’s proposal, every permanent full-time position would be subject to layoff for periods of up to 90 days, and this could happen more than once per year.

Every permanent full-time position would become a seasonal job subject to extended periods of reduced income or no income at all.

This destruction of full-time jobs has nothing to do with the availability of full-time work.

The LCBO has had full-time permanent jobs from the very beginning. Our stores and warehouses are operating with longer hours than ever before.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is a corporation that is single-minded in its pursuit of profit – even if it means destroying the lives of the people who earn those profits.

The profits of the LCBO were $1.345 billion last year, not counting $382 million in taxes delivered to the provincial government.

To put this in perspective, the LCBO’s profits per worker are around $200,000 per year. This is roughly 30 times the profit per worker earned by Wal-Mart.

Yet somehow 60 per cent of OPSEU members at the LCBO are casuals who earn an average wage of less than $20,800 a year. Without benefits. Without a pension. Without any guarantee that they’ll be working next year, next month, or even next week.

We don’t accept this. We believe that good jobs that allow people to live decently, bring their kids up properly, and retire with dignity are the foundation of healthy local economies.

When working people do well, business does well.

The LCBO’s vision of a perfect world is one where the customers are all rich and the employees are all poor.

We don’t buy that vision. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for our families. It doesn’t work for our communities. And it doesn’t work for our Ontario.

We’re ready to fight for our vision of Ontario. That fight starts today.