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Liquor Mart strike could affect Christmas holidays

WINNIPEG – The Christmas holidays could be dry in Manitoba. Unionized liquor and lotteries employees are holding a strike vote next week.

Members of the Manitoba Government and General Emplees’ Union want a new collective agreement with a wage increase and some benefit improvements. This week, members rejected the government’s final offer, which included giving up some contract provisions and accepting a new benefits plan for 2016.

“It was the highest turnout we’ve ever had coming out on a ratification,” said MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky. “Ninety-eight per cent turned it down. That’s a very strong message sent back to the employer.”

Some customers told Global News they didn’t think a wage increase at the provincially owned liquor retailer was necessary. The province is currently facing a $522-million deficit.

A starting Liquor Mart clerk makes $18.14 an hour. Minimum wage in Manitoba is $10.70 an hour.

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The union said the job involves much more than ringing customers through.

“A lot of it is the responsibility. They’re selling liquor, carding minors and making sure the workplace is safe,” said Gawronsky.

Another round of bargaining is scheduled for Nov. 26. The union has scheduled a strike vote for its 820 affected members the following day.

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