ine Rack employees are striking at 77 Wellesley East and across the Greater Toronto Area with SEIU Local 2. The strike began on June 7 after Wine Rack workers voted overwhelmingly to strike on May 11. SEIU Local 2 attempted to come to a fair settlement with Wine Rack management, but failed on June 4.
According to a statement by SEIU Local 2, Wine Rack are refusing to negotiate wages, refusing to implement a fair scheduling system that respects seniority, and are interfering with the SEIU’s ability to communicate with members.
Wine Rack has 164 stores across Ontario. They are owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan through their holding company Arterra Wines. So far, according to SEIU, the OTPP has not taken action to protect Wine Rack workers’ rights.
William Bayliss has worked for Wine Rack for two and a half years. "I've experienced poverty wages. You start below $15 an hour and you pretty much stay there," he said at the picket line at 77 Wellesley St. E. "I make $14.55 an hour after two years." Bayliss said that Wine Rack managers have the ability to deny workers' raises based on internal criteria, and workers aren't able to appeal the decisions to anyone other than Wine Rack management.
He also said Wine Rack have no guaranteed hours. "There are no protections on having your hours given to a new hire or a managers' friend, or someone the manager likes more."
Bayliss said the OTPP says workers deserve a raise every year that outpaces inflation, and that it is hypocritical of them not to expect the same for employees of a company the OTPP owns.
Another worker, who chose not to be named because they feared retribution from Wine Rack, said that Wine rack employees' hours constantly fluctuate. "There's no seniority, there's no rules about scheduling, you can have your hours arbitrarily cut at any time." They said that after their manager hired a friend of there's to work at the store, employees hours were cut from 25 hours a week to 10 to 15 hours a week.
"It was absolutely devastating for some people there. I actually ended up giving away one of my shifts because I have a second job. But for some people that's literally the difference between making rent, and some of them were barely doing that already."
Assya Moustaqim-Barette is a representative of SEIU Local 2. She said the strike is ongoing until Wine Rack can come to an agreement with the union. "[Wine Rack] has been treating workers as if they're not essential in terms of wages and in terms of a lack of respect. The strike is to show how the workers are essential to the functioning of [Wine Rack's] stores."
"Workers have been working every single day since the start of the pandemic. They did get a small pandemic premium pay raise last summer," but Wine Rack has since rescinded that pay raise.
SEIU Local 2and Wine Rack employees are asking Ontarians to shop at the LCBO until an agreement is met with the employer.