October 24, 2016
Government Continues to Privatize Liquor Sales in PEI
The Prince Edward Island Union of Public Sector Employees is opposing the provincial government’s plan to close the Wellington Liquor Store. Karen Jackson, President of PEI UPSE says “this move is not a good job strategy for rural PEI and is not necessary. The Wellington Liquor Store exceeds sales of $1,300,000 per year. Provincial Liquor Stores offer a healthy balance of great customer service with well trained staff to serve customers responsibly, they foster safe communities, provide good quality jobs and revenues that are invested back into public services like healthcare, education, and programs for families.”
Jackson says she is very concerned about the government’s trend toward privatization. “We end up with lower paying jobs, reduced service, and in some cases public safety issues. There is no question that drinking and driving is a serious problem in PEI. We should be cautious about fostering a market that may make it easier for minors to obtain alcohol. I know that this is not the intent of government; however, many would agree that this is one of the outcomes of selling liquor at convenience stores and gas stations.”
The President of UPSE says that she was informed about government’s plan just one day in advance of the news being communicated to the affected UPSE members. “This did not give us sufficient time to engage with the employer in regard to this matter. The collective agreement stipulates that the employer must consult with the union on matters which affect the employment of our members.”
Jackson says the union was able to send a Labour Relations Officer from the union to represent the interests of the members at Friday’s meeting, however, the only assurances she has been given is that two of the affected members will have opportunities to transfer elsewhere in government, while the remaining four casual employees may be able to work at the new private agency store. These employees will be faced with the prospect of earning lower wages and losing benefits.
Jackson explained that “this is the second public liquor store to be closed since 2012, and there are currently eight private agency stores in place. The closure of the Wellington Liquor Store will also result in an additional agency store being established. I don’t believe these changes are necessary. Provincially owned and operated liquor stores should not be closed. They are socially responsible, provide revenue to government, and are committed to moderation in the use of alcohol, and therefore, the safety of Islanders.”