Liquor Mart workers to voice concerns at Manitoba legislature after employees attacked on the job
Winnipeg – More than 40 Manitoba Liquor Mart workers are slated to head to the legislature Thursday afternoon to voice concerns over retail thefts and robberies, according to their union.
The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union said the workers will be in the gallery for Question Period. Afterwards they plan to meet with the provincial Liberals and the NDP. MGEU said as of Tuesday afternoon it had yet to confirm a meeting with the Progressive Conservative government.
“It’s about the safety in the workplace and what is going on and the violence that is happening,” said MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky. “They want to make sure that every MLA from across Manitoba, no matter where you’re from, is actually paying attention to what is going and are willing to be part of the solution.”
Provincially-run liquor stores have been under siege for the past year-and-a-half due to daily thefts and violent robberies.
Concerns have escalated ever since three employees were seriously assaulted on the job, with one worker knocked unconscious and sent to hospital in critical condition, in a violent and brazen armed robbery Wednesday afternoon at Tyndall Market Liquor Mart.
In an 11-minute video posted to social media Sunday evening, Randi Chase identified herself as one of the victims of the attack and voiced concerns over the ongoing theft and robbery problem at Liquor Marts and other retail stores.
“It happened so fast,” said Chase. “I replayed the story in my head over and over and over again and I still can’t make any sense of it.”
Chase said she was called in to work early on the day of the attack. 10 minutes after she got on the floor, she said chaos broke out.
“I just froze,” she said. “I was so scared.”
Surveillance video of the incident shows an individual in a dark hoodie walking behind the counter where Chase was standing and striking her in the head. She said the suspect wanted her to open the cash register but she didn’t even have time to react.
“I just – I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t do anything because I was afraid that I would get fired or I would be disciplined for protecting myself because I would’ve provoked him,” said Chase, fighting back tears. “So here I am behind the counter so helpless...and then minutes later, unconscious.
“That’s not fair. That should not have happened. No one should’ve gone through that.”
Gawronsky said the concerns raised by Chase in the video reflect what other Liquor Mart employees have been worrying – and still worry – may happen to them.
“Over the weekend I got numerous calls, numerous messages from liquor workers all across the province – they are scared. They are scared to go to work, they’re scared of what’s going to come up – Christmas season is upon us and they’re very worried about what’s going to happen,” said Gawronsky. “It just seems like this Manitoba crisis is out of control, totally, and retail everywhere is scared.”
Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries isn’t commenting on camera. In an emailed statement, the Crown corporation said its focusing on communicating with employees and preparing for the new secure entrance initiative it announced last week following the attack on the employees at Tyndall Market.
“Employees at the Tyndall Market Liquor Mart went through a horrifying and traumatic incident last week and all of us at Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries feel for what they and our Liquor Mart employees across Winnipeg have been experiencing over the past 18 months,” a portion of the statement reads. “Our employees have our full support.
Our human resources department has made sure resources are available for everyone involved at Tyndall, including counselling available through our Employee and Family Assistance Program.”
MBLL said the controlled entrance initiative was already underway prior to the armed robbery at its Tyndall Market location.
When asked to respond to Chase’s concerns about discipline for intervening in suspected thefts, the Crown corporation said a combination of coaching and discipline is used to keep staff and customers safe.
“There has been ongoing coaching in Liquor Marts to help ensure the safety of our employees,” said a spokesperson for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. “Discipline (verbal/written reprimand/suspension) may be required in circumstances when employees unnecessarily provoke or engage with thieves (e.g. physically trying to block thieves, trying to grab product out of their hands etc.) and in some cases where an employee continues to do so even after previous coaching/discipline occurred.
“In doing so, we take into consideration the specific circumstance and the employee’s disciplinary history. In at least one case, an employee was provided with additional training to give that employee a better understanding of the impact intervening can have.”