Union reveals location of secret cannabis warehouse, claims province blocked sign up drive

The head of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says the Ford government is trying to prevent workers from unionizing at the Ontario Cannabis Store warehouse.

OPSEU says it has the right to represent employees at the secret OCS warehouse

A worker unloads pallets of cannabis products at the Ontario Cannabis Store distribution centre. Its location has been protected due to security concerns. (The Canadian Press/Submitted by Ontario Cannabis Store)

The head of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says the provincial government is trying to prevent workers from unionizing at the Ontario Cannabis Store warehouse.

The union also claims to have discovered the location of the warehouse, which had been kept secret by the OCS due to security concerns.

Warren 'Smokey' Thomas, OPSEU president, says labour organizers went to the Oakville warehouse late last year after receiving a tip about its location.

After confirming the tip was accurate, OPSEU attempted to host a sign-up drive and to talk to warehouse employees about unionizing, but Thomas says police were quickly called in to disrupt the organizing attempts. He estimates that around 100 to 200 people work at the warehouse.

"Calling in officers from Halton regional police to stop OPSEU from talking to these workers is not only a complete waste of police resources, it also violates their right to join a union," Thomas said.

Warren 'Smokey' Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, believes Doug Ford is using police to thwart labour organizing efforts. (Jon Castell / CBC News)

Thomas says one of the organizers was later visited by police at his home on Jan. 6, which Thomas alleges is evidence that "there had to be some kind of intervention from the government here.

"Workers have a right in the Constitution of Canada to freedom of association, and that encompasses joining a union," he said.

In a brief statement to CBC Toronto, Simon Jefferies, spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford's office, said Thomas' suggestion amounts to a "complete lie from OPSEU."

Thomas challenges that denial, pointing to allegations that Ford may have influenced the appointment of his longtime family friend, Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner, to lead the OPP last year. Ford has repeatedly denied any involvement in the hiring process, however.

A spokesperson for Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the allegations by OPSEU are "a complete lie." (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Halton police confirm they were called to the warehouse address listed by OPSEU on Dec. 12 due to reports of an "anomalous package" and a "suspicious vehicle" in the area.

"Investigation of the package and vehicle led police to two males who were identified as members of OPSEU," said Const. Ryan Anderson. "In the course of the investigation, at no time, did police direct any persons to cease contact with employees of the distribution centre."

Police would not confirm if they went to the home of one of the OPSEU members in January. Anderson said no charges have been laid in the investigation.

OPSEU claims right to represent workers

OPSEU also claims the PCs are not honouring an agreement with the LCBO and the previous Liberal government that would have given the union representation rights to OCS employees.

Thomas said he has not yet formally met with Ford since the new government took office, and that the LCBO, which oversees the OCS, no longer returns calls from the union.

"Our position, still, is that we represent workers at this warehouse, but the LCBO would never tell us where the warehouse was," Thomas said.

An OCS spokesperson said he would not confirm the location of the warehouse due to policy.

"Details of the OCS distribution centre are undisclosed for security reasons and will not be publicly announced or confirmed," wrote director of communications Daffyd Roderick.

Domain Logistics, which OPSEU claims is the operator of the warehouse, did not respond to calls from CBC Toronto.

Its website describes the company as "a Toronto-based third party logistics provider, specializing in supply chain solutions for complex, fast-moving businesses in Canada."

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