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OPSEU stands firm on the anti-privatization of the LCBO
Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 4:45pm
The president of the Ontario Public Service Employees union, representing
more the 7,000 LCBO workers, says his union will redouble its efforts to
keep the Crown corporation in public hands even as the Wynne government
ponders asset sales to reduce the deficit.
“When it comes to fighting the possible sale of all or parts of the LCBO to the
private sector, no organization in Ontario has a stronger track record than
OPSEU – and we intend to keep it that way,” said the union’s president,
Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Our LCBO members have been on the frontlines
of maintaining a publicly-owned retailer of spirits, wines and beer for years
now and the more the new government talks about reviewing the possibility of
selling off public assets the more we will push back hard.
“We’ve done so before when LCBO privatization was threatened and we’ve
won. If that threat rears its ugly head once more we will do so again and the
outcome will be no different.”
Thomas was responding to inflammatory comments made by the president of
Unifor who said in a recent press release that OPSEU’s leadership was
secretly supportive of privatizing the retail giant which contributes more than
$2.4 billion annually to the provincial treasury in the form of dividends and
taxes that help pay for health care, education and public services.
“Those with scant knowledge of the LCBO and the workers who make it a
world leader in the retail sale of spirits clearly have too much time on their
hands and should busy themselves elsewhere,” said Thomas.
He said the real threat posed by the new government is its intention to review
the possibility of public asset sales, including Hydro One, the Ontario Lottery
and Gaming Commission and the LCBO. Were that to be the outcome of a
review, OPSEU takes the position that any sale must be made to a
purchaser, like a public sector-based pension fund, where all jobs would be
guaranteed, dividends would stay in the province, regulatory oversight would
be maintained and, in the case of the LCBO, the highest standards of social
responsibility would be enforced.
Denise Davis, chair of OPSEU’s liquor board employees division, said her
members have repeatedly fought against privatization of the LCBO, as
recently as 2010 when the McGuinty government put forward an ill-advised
plan to roll several large Crown corporations into an entity called
“SuperCorp.” Investment funds would have been invited to buy up to 20 per
cent of the shares in the corporation. The government quickly withdrew from
the idea in the face of widespread public opposition.
“We’ve been down this privatization road too many times before and every
time the government of the day eventually comes to its senses and
acknowledges the LCBO is too profitable to be sold off to Bay Street,” said
Davis. “But we’re ready to travel that road again if it means keeping the
LCBO in public hands.”