Spring clean out for Ontario booze.

Have you got it figured out yet? Every few years, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) thinks it will be a good time to clean its warehouses. To facilitate this house cleaning, it tries to clear all its warehouse shelves. It makes it easier to dust them.

But you never see the LCBO doing any deep discounting. It could never maintain its close to 35 per cent net profit margin if it started offering better prices. It is for this reason that the LCBO periodically gets into an argument with its unionized employees. Management push the union’s buttons threatening their hours and by being hard-nosed over slight increases in pay. In response, the union threatens to strike.

Part of the deal with the union is that it has to give the LCBO lots of warning. When the union issues its warning of a strike, the information is then breathlessly shared with the Ontario public. The concern is that 40 per cent of Canada’s citizens in Ontario are going to be cut off their tot of rum. They had better stock up.

What could be better for overall sales than the warehouse stock being stored in the customers’ pantries instead of the warehouse. Excess profits are safely protected. A small increase to the approximately 15 per cent of unionized full-time staff will hardly dent the board’s earnings. It can be made up by cutting hours for the part-time retail staff who do the bulk of the work for the government-owned booze monopoly. After all, sales will slump for a while because of all those customers who have stocked up.

The real danger to the LCBO will be the changes coming in Ontario employment and labour laws. The equal pay for equal work provisions could put an end to the fiction that the LCBO can have such a high percentage of part-time employees. And having those part-timers eligible to join the union could present serious challenges to a politically appointed board. Ontario tipplers already pay too much for their tipples and they will be paying to try to maintain the outrageous profits the Ontario government extracts from its citizens for their booze.

Okay Ontario, the union and the LCBO settled their differences last night shortly past the strike deadline. How does it feel to be had again?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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