Ford defends LCBO, criticizes OPSEU as strike drags on with no talks

In his first media availability since the start of the LCBO strike, Premier Doug Ford urged the union representing LCBO workers to return to the bargaining table. But as Tina Yazdani reports, he's refusing to concede to their key demand.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is defending the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) amid an ongoing strike impacting thousands of workers, calling on the union to get back to the bargaining table “to get a deal done now.”

Ford made an announcement at 10 a.m. at the Cool Beer Brewing Company in Etobicoke. The Premier addressed the ongoing labour dispute, saying, “The LCBO will remain a public asset,” defending the alcohol retailer while criticizing the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

“The LCBO will continue to play a critical role in the new marketplace,” Ford said. “I fully believe the LCBO and OPSEU can reach a deal… This strike should have never happened. We could have worked things out. That’s why I want OPSEU to get back to the bargaining table.”

No talks are expected between the LCBO and OPSEU after the workers walked off the job on Friday, July 5. At an LCBO distribution centre in Mississauga, several dozen workers on the picket line delayed delivery trucks entering the warehouse on Tuesday.

Ford said his government won’t back down on alcohol expansion plans and urged OPSEU to focus on issues such as wages, benefits, and job security for its LCBO employees. The Premier also said he’s spoken to several workers and urged OPSEU to review LCBO’s offer.

“We aren’t privatizing the LCBO. We aren’t selling the LCBO, and we’re not putting spirits into big-box stores,” Ford added. “[They] should have sat down and discussed the issues, but unfortunately, OPSEU walked away.”

OPSEU’s Colleen MacLeod responded to Ford’s comment in a statement, saying they are fighting for the future of the LCBO and the public revenue it generates and they are ready to head back to the bargaining table immediately.

She tells 680 NewsRadio they are willing to return to the table even if removing ready-to-drink cocktails from convenience and grocery stores wasn’t happening.

“We’re willing to discuss it. We’ve always told them we’re willing to discuss it,” said MacLeod. “The biggest problem that we’re having is that they have not discussed anything with us. They failed to give us any information, they failed to provide us any data on how much money would be lost and how many jobs would be lost as a result of the modernization.”

MacLeod adds they will be presenting the latest offer from LCBO management to their members during a town hall Wednesday evening.

“The five bargaining team members are going to let our members know exactly what is in that document and because there’s a lot of confusion and [Ford]’s calling our members and talking to them and trying to bargain directly with our members so we want to straighten that out we want our members to know you know the truth of the matter and how this impacts their future.”

The Crown corporation intended to open five distribution centres this week to help distribute booze to restaurants, bars, hotels, convention centres, and other licensees across the province. The LCBO now says that will not happen due to picketing at the locations, but it will offer online ordering for smaller orders.

The latest statement from the LCBO said they are still taking and fulfilling orders but their selection of inventory ebbs and flows as they are trying to navigate products out of the warehouses and depots.

“We are doing our best to remain in line with our estimated delivery timelines and appreciate the patience of our retail and wholesale customers should their order take longer than anticipated due to high volumes,” read their statement.

The press conference this morning comes a day after the finance minister penned a letter to Carmine Nigro, President and CEO of CRAFT Development Corporation, directing that the LCBO promote more Ontario-made products once availability expands to convenience and more grocery stores.

In May, the Ford government announced that beer, wine, and ready-to-drink cocktails would be sold at Ontario convenience stores starting in August. By the end of October, fully licenced convenience stores, supermarkets, and gas stations will be able to sell beer, wine, and ready-to-drink cocktails well ahead of the previously slated date of early 2026.

Ford said he will not budge from his plan to have ready-to-drink cocktails sold at convenience and grocery stores across the province.

“That ship has sailed,” the Premier mused.

Ford, province focused on Ontario-made summer

The LCBO has said its last contract offer included wage increases and converting several hundred part-time jobs to full-time positions.

The union, meanwhile, believes Ford’s plan to open up the alcohol sales market poses an existential threat to the LCBO that will lead to major job losses. It does not want ready-to-drink cocktails sold outside LCBO stores, wants the province to guarantee its jobs, as well as wage increases, and wants more permanent rather than part-time positions.

An LCBO store is shown in this undated image. Photo: Flickr.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy has said the government is “more committed than ever” to its alcohol expansion plans, which aim to give Ontarians more choice and convenience.

Earlier this week, Ford and the province shared an interactive map designed to connect consumers to thousands of retailers and local alcohol producers. Ford’s video uploaded to X received criticism online, with many questioning why the government has remained focused on alcohol sales instead of other issues, such as the lack of family doctors and available nurses in the province.

The online map allows users to find a location that sells beer, wine, cider, spirits or ready-to-drink beverages. The province says the map will be updated regularly as alcohol sales are expanded to more licensed grocery and convenience stores.

With files from Liam Casey of The Canadian Press

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today