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Liquor store workers in Manitoba begin provincewide strike to protest contract talks

August 8, 2023
The Canadian Press

A worker holding a strike sign. Photo: Adobe Stock

Workers at Manitoba’s Liquor Marts are starting a provincewide strike after the Crown-owned organization shuttered more of its locations as contract talks stalled.

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries announced the closure of 10 more locations on Monday with seven of the 63 locations across the province remaining open with reduced hours.

The strike does not affect private operators such as beer vendors, specialty wine stores and many rural liquor outlets.

The workers have been holding short-term strikes since July, but decided to ramp up efforts after Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries failed to meet their requests.

Some 1,400 workers are protesting contract negotiations and have been without a collective agreement for more than a year.

Kyle Ross, who is president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, says the workers’ strike will go on for the foreseeable future.

“Striking was never off the table, but I was hoping we could resolve this before it came to this,” he said.

“This could have been avoided had the government and the employer put forth a fair and reasonable offer that our members can accept. It’s really frustrating that we have to push this hard to get something that’s fair and reasonable.”

Ross said the latest contract offer was for four years with two per cent wage hikes each year and some wage adjustments to compensate for minimum wage increasing to $15.30 per hour in the fall.

He has said that is not enough to keep up with inflation, adding that it does not recognize what workers faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and an earlier spike in robberies that led to increased security in all government-run stores.

“Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries is a very profitable corporation. It can afford fair and reasonable wage increases for its workers,” said Ross.

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries did not respond to an immediate request for comment.

A conciliator met with the Crown organization Tuesday and Ross said he expects meetings will be held throughout the week.

“We’re open to meet every day. Our goal is to get this done,” Ross said. “Nobody wants to be on strike. Our workers don’t want to be on strike, but they know they have to. They’re fighting for fairness.”

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