The union representing 7,000 Beer Store employees is warning Progressive Conservative MPPs about potential job losses if the government breaks its agreement with the breweries.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 12R24 is targeting Tories on Twitter with personalized messages reminding them of the local impact of the decision.
But Premier Doug Ford insisted Friday he is not kidding about blowing up the government’s 10-year agreement with the Beer Store to expand the sale of beer and wine to convenience stores.
“Test me out … find out if I’m bluffing or not,” the premier told reporters at Darlington nuclear station in Courtice.
“It’s about time we started treating adults like adults. The party’s over with these guys,” Ford said referring to the “three multinationals,” Molson, Labatt, and Sleeman, that control most of the Beer Store.
“I can’t wait to get you those beers in the corner stores, guys,” he told workers at Darlington.
His comments came amid concerns that breaching the contract could expose the Ontario government to $1 billion in penalties paid to the Beer Store.
Union president John Nock said Ford needs to understand the other ramifications of scrapping the master framework agreement signed in 2015 with the breweries by the previous Liberal government that led to the sale of beer in supermarkets.
“It’ll definitely have an impact and I think they’ll start closing stores down,” said Nock, noting there are 3,749 Beer Store employees who live in Progressive Conservative ridings.
“A lot of people voted for him and now it turns out they could be losing their jobs. It’s sad,” he said.
The average salary of a Beer Store workers is around $20 an hour with more senior employees earning more than $30 an hour.
“They’re getting full benefits with dental,” said Nock.
“There’s some parts of Ontario — where people have been around a long time — they’re the highest paid people in the community. They’re the pillars of the community,” he said.
With that in mind, the union wants PC MPPs to listen to their concerns.
“Not one Tory MPP has responded to me,” said Nock.
In Ford’s constituency of Etobicoke North, there are 28 employees of the 450-store chain.
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, who tabled the surprise legislation Monday, has 54 Beer Store employees in his Nipissing riding.
For Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, in York Simcoe, the tally is 69 workers.
Labour Minister Laurie Scott’s riding of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock has 83 Beer Store workers.
In Newmarket-Aurora, represented by Health Minister Christine Elliott, there are 53 employees.
Beyond high-profile cabinet ministers, the union is also taking aim at lesser known backbenchers, such as rookie Dave Smith, whose Peterborough-Kawatha riding is home to 73 Beer Store workers, and Etobicoke Centre’s King Surma, where 57 unionized members live.
“We obviously pay attention in all elections, but this will be a game-changer for us,” Nock said of the government’s gambit against the Beer Store.
“We’re not going to stop, we’re going to keep ramping up.”
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie