LCBO expands hours before possible strike

LCBO officials say they will be expanding store hours across the province this week. (Michael Wilson/CBC - image credit)
LCBO officials say they will be expanding store hours across the province this week. (Michael Wilson/CBC - image credit)

With the threat of a potential worker strike looming for Ontarians, the LCBO says it will be expanding store hours starting this week.

Bargaining is currently underway between the LCBO and the Ontario Public Service Employees' Union (OPSEU). The union will be in a legal strike position as of 12:01 a.m. on July 5.

The LCBO says it will extend the hours at all stores in the province starting on Thursday through to July 4, with the usual Canada Day closure in effect for July 1.

All stores will open early at 9:30 a.m., and "many" stores will stay open until 10 p.m., the LCBO says, though closing hours will vary depending on location.

Customers are being asked to check their local store schedules, which will be updated when those extended hours are in effect.

The union is bringing a hefty strike mandate to the bargaining table, with members voting 97 per cent in favour of job action if a deal isn't reached by July 5.

Over the years, unionized LCBO workers have always been able to get a deal without walking off the job, even when they've voted strongly in favour of a strike.

LCBO workers voted to strike in 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2017, yet reached agreement on a contract without a strike in every one of those rounds of bargaining.

This year, the province's plan to allow all grocery and convenience stores to sell beer, wine and ready-to-drink cocktails starting this summer looms large over the negotiations between the LCBO and the roughly 9,000 workers represented by OPSEU.

The LCBO also said in a news release Monday that workers are doing everything they can to "maintain inventory levels," but customers "may wish to stock up on spirits and Vintages products in particular at this time."

The news release also says delivery to stores will be available up until June 26, while same-day pick up will be possible until July 2.

Customers will also be able to order alcohol through on-demand delivery providers until July 4.

If a strike does happen, the LCBO says stores would transition to an "updated operations model," and locations would close for two weeks.

Then on July 18, after those 14 days, 30 LCBO stores would start to open for in-store shopping, operating three days a week under limited hours.

The corporation says its website and app will continue to accept orders for free home delivery for the duration of a possible strike, but there would be "reasonable caps" on products both in store and online.