Source: Facebook

The first strike in LCBO’s history has begun, as the government-run liquor distributor closes its doors across Ontario for at least the next 14 days.

Negotiations between the LCBO and the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union dissolved on Thursday. 

“Tonight, Ford’s dry summer begins,” said Colleen Mcleod, chair of the OPSEU liquor board employee’s division bargaining team on Thursday.

​​The roughly 9,000 LCBO employees being represented by the OPSEU are concerned that the decision by Premier Doug Ford to allow the sale of alcohol in convenience stores will hurt their work hours.

LCBO union members voted 97% in favour of a strike last week if a deal wasn’t reached with the Crown corporation by Friday.

Now, LCBO stores throughout Ontario will remain closed for at least two weeks, unless a deal is reached before then.

If negotiations are not finalized by July 19, 32 LCBO stores across Ontario will be re-opened for limited hours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

However, thirsty Ontarians will still have access to alcohol via The Beer Store, local breweries, wineries and the LCBO’s online delivery services.

OPSEU leaders laid the blame for the strike at the feet of Ford during a press conference on Thursday, accusing him of favouring private interests over the LCBO’s public profits.

“Ford’s happy to give away Ontario’s crown jewel,” said OPSEU president JP Hornick. 

“LCBO workers have come forward in their thousands to say that we will not stand by while this government throws away Ontarians’ money and gives it to billionaires and CEOs.”

The LCBO responded to the strike by saying that “despite its best efforts” it could not reach a deal with OPSEU.

“For the past several months, we have engaged in collective bargaining with OPSEU in hopes of reaching a fair and equitable agreement that addresses their considerations while ensuring the long-term sustainability of our operations,” reads the LCBO statement. 

“Despite our best efforts, we have not yet been able to do so.”

The Ontario government responded by saying it was “disappointed” that negotiations broke down in a statement released on Thursday.

However, the government refused to backpedal on its commitment to loosen alcohol retail sales.  

“We are more committed than ever to fulfilling our promise of choice and convenience by expanding access to beer, cider, wine, and ready-to-drink beverages in convenience, grocery, and big-box stores starting later this summer,” said the government.

“We urge OPSEU to return to the negotiating table and work towards a deal that prioritizes Ontario consumers and producers.”

The Ford government initially announced plans to begin selling alcohol in all supermarkets, convenience stores and gas stations in 2026, however, sales will now begin as early as August of this year. 

Ready-to-drink cocktails and coolers will begin being sold at grocery stores already licenced to sell beer in August and by October, at fully licenced convenience and gas stations stores as well.  

While stores will be closed for the next 14 days, the LCBO said it is “committed to maintaining the highest standards of service that we can during this challenging time.”

“We have implemented contingency plans to help minimize disruption as much as possible and ensure that our products remain available to our valued retail and wholesale customers,” reads the statement.

“We will be operating our business, but it is not business as usual.”