Manitoba liquor workers’ union asking for ‘fair deal’ as strike impacts private sector

Rob Sankar, general manager with the Tux Beer Market, says his business has seen sales go up since the start of a strike by unionized workers with Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries. Iris Dyck / Global News

An ongoing strike by unionized liquour and lottery workers in Manitoba is having an effect on the private market, with retailers unable to refill some of their stock. And as strikes go, this is one that’s seen its fair share of changes since it first started.

A strike notice was first issued by the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union leading to workers convening on the picket lines on July 19. At issue are demands for higher wages and a contract dispute.

By July 31, liquor store workers returned to work even as staff at distribution centres remained off the job. As suddenly as they returned to work, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL) announced the closure of seven stores from Aug. 1 to Aug. 2. According to them, any employee “with a home base at these stores will be locked out for this period.”

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They added that this measure is in response to the union’s tactics and refusal to allow employees to restock shelves.

Kyle Ross, union president, told 680 CJOB that the union’s tactics makes it difficult for the employer to plan for what they need to do.

“We’re not asking for the moon. I think we are asking for a fair and reasonable offer,” said Ross. “If we are not willing to fight for a fair offer, what are we here for?”

Ross added that the support for the strike from the public is there and that the striking workers understand the plan moving forward. As for a mediation process, he noted that both sides are feeling each other out in negotiations.

“These things can end at the drop of a hat. It’s upon Heather Stefanson and (her) government to say, ‘Okay, we want to give these workers a fair deal,'” said Ross. “This could end tonight with the stroke of a pen or one phone call… but we’re not seeing that.”

MBLL said, in a press release on July 31, that the union’s “disruptive tactic” is expected. It also added that it is “committed to the collective bargaining process with the assistance of a conciliator and reaching a fair and reasonable agreement.”

As the strike carries on, the impact on the alcohol industry is being felt across the province. Rob Sankar, general manager with the Tux Beer Market, said while sales at his business have gone up after the start of the strike, about 30 to 40 per cent of the products are now sold out.

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With distribution centre employees out picketing, there’s no one to replenish a diminishing product.

“We may get some disgruntled (customers), but they also understand distribution is striking as well,” said Sankar. “They’re striking for a good reason… but you don’t like to see people on strike. I would like to see them back at work and the distribution system back up and running.”

— with files from Global’s Iris Dyck

Click to play video: 'MBLL strike to continue Saturday'
MBLL strike to continue Saturday

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