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Union calls for freeze on expanded alcohol sales in province

Last Updated Dec 29, 2018 at 11:18 pm EST

The head of the union representing LCBO workers calls it a crisis and he’s asking the Ford government to put a hold on plans to expand the sale of alcohol into corner stores.

The warning comes in the wake of a Toronto Star report which claims the LCBO has been the target of thieves more than 9,000 times between January 2014 and June 2018, resulting in thousands of dollars in losses.

Earlier this month Toronto police arrested two people and are looking for 10 others in connection with an organized ring behind a series of thefts from liquor stores believed to have totaled more than $200,000.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says recent media coverage about shoplifting should make the government think twice about alcohol sales in grocery and corner stores.

“Alcohol is always going to attract the attention of thieves and the underground economy. It’s a commodity easily sold in the black market,” said Thomas.

A former employee who wishes to remain anonymous says dealing with shoplifters is an accepted reality for LCBO employees.

“You can’t stop them. You can’t try and stop them,” he tells CityNews.

“They’ll find a way to hide anywhere from $500-to-$1,000 worth of alcohol and it’s not like they’re hitting just one store. We only knew it was going to happen because another store called us and said they were just hit and the thieves are heading our way.”

Thomas says the situation has reached crisis levels adding they’ve expressed concern for the mental and physical well-being of employees over these thefts for some time.

“Nobody should go to work wondering if they might be put in harm’s way over a 15 dollar bottle of Vodka,” said Thomas, who adds he’s eager to speak with Premier Doug Ford regarding an action plan.

“We’d like the LCBO to create its own security force. And the training would be specific to the retail experience of the LCBO so that they could preserve that experience, enhance it and hopefully prevent thefts and keep people safe.”

In a statement to CityNews, the LCBO said it has “taken appropriate steps to prevent shop theft through security investments and theft protection tactics. We have increased our guarding and investigator expenditures, as well as CCTV technology, in-store deterrents, and always collaborate with local police on active investigations.”