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Liquor Mart workers picketing on Sunday, marking first weekend of strike action


The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU) says Liquor Mart workers will be taking strike action on Sunday, marking the first weekend since contract negotiations began that employees have been off the job.

The union said all Winnipeg and Brandon workers will be off the job, and northern and rural employees will be back with limited duties.

"There has been no movement towards a fair and reasonable wage increase and the Corporation is continuing to use replacement workers at the Liquor Distribution Centre," MGEU said in a news release.

On Saturday, waving hands, worn-in runners, and large signs saying “Catch up Keep up” lined the perimeter of the Grant Park Shopping Centre. It’s where one of five Winnipeg Liquor Mart locations remained opened with limited hours on Saturday.

Manitoba Liquor Mart workers have been picketing since Wednesday - calling for their wages to keep up with inflation. This was the first Saturday since contract negotiations began that workers walked off the job on a weekend.

Not everyone was aware doors would be locked. Melody Muzyka said it wasn't until she went to a St. Boniface Liquor Mart location that she learned it was closed. Then she tried the Osborne Village location.

"I figured it's just a short walk so I'll just take my chances, and I come here and it's closed,” Muzyka laughed.

Liam Fullerton tried to get in too, looking for ingredients he said he can only find at Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL) stores.

"My family's coming in from Swan River,” Fullerton said. “They're picking up my sister from Germany and I was really looking forward to make some cocktails for them."

He said he’s supportive of the strike.

"We're in a really hard time for a lot of workers right now. I think that strikes are a super important motivator,” he said.

As the strike continues, the province has begun using replacement workers at its distribution centre.

"They're offering them higher wages than they actually pay their own workers,” MGEU president Kyle Ross said Saturday. “So it really makes it frustrating for the workers that are picketing to see these members do their jobs while they're trying to fight for a fair wage."

If the strike continues , it might impact long weekend liquor sales.

"We have to continue job action. It's unfortunate that Manitobans have to suffer under this and the 1,400 families that work at MBLL,” Ross said.

In a statement, MBLL said the decision was not taken lightly, and the contracted workers cannot replace their own employees.

“Many of MBLL’s non-unionized staff are working hard in other roles to maintain operations for our customers and business partners like restaurants and bars,” it said.

MBLL also said the Crown corporation and MGEU will be meeting Sunday to discuss the strike.

A statement from the province said in part: "We continue to urge both sides to continue working with the conciliator at the bargaining table, for the benefit of all Manitobans.”

CTV News Winnipeg has reached out to MBLL to learn if any Winnipeg or Brandon Liquor Mart locations will open Sunday. Top Stories

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