As the labour dispute between Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries (MBLL) and its workers continues, impacts of the strike are being felt by local breweries and customers during one of their busiest times of the year.
Torque Brewing’s new seasonal New England IPA won’t be hitting Manitoba Liquor Mart shelves in time for the August long weekend.
The labour disruption means the launch of new beers is at a standstill, Torque’s co-founder and operations manager Matthew Wolff said Wednesday.
“(The IPA) should have been already, potentially even last week, available to a lot of Liquor Mart stores,” he said.
Apart from MBLL employees striking outside their King Edward Street distribution centre Wednesday, workers returned to Liquor Marts, after some were locked out of select stores Tuesday.
The labour disruption has left some inventory, such as spirits and wines, in need of restocking.
6 Liquor Mart Express stores to close Thursday until further notice: MBLL
In a news release issued Wednesday, MBLL says it’s being forced to close six Liquor Mart Express stores starting Thursday morning at 7 a.m. until further notice, including those on Winnipeg’s Bison Drive, Gateway Road, Reenders Drive, Sargent Avenue and St. Anne’s Road along with the Brandon West End Liquor Mart Express.
“Keeping Liquor Marts open and stocked is a priority to ensure liquor products remain available to Manitobans and the two thousand, mostly small, local businesses that rely on liquor sales to support their own operations,” MBLL’s president and CEO, Gerry Sul, said in the release.
“MBLL is taking these measured and proportional steps to ensure we can continue providing retail liquor service to Manitobans.”
As negotiations go on, distribution and head office employees will continue picketing Thursday, with in-store members also striking Thursday, Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU) said in a news release Wednesday.
However, the latter workers will fill their shifts Friday and Saturday where they should continue to not receive inventory and refuse overtime, the union continued.
“Our members recognize how important Terry Fox Day and the long weekend in general are to Manitobans, and we want to ensure everyone is able to enjoy this special time with their families,” MGEU president Kyle Ross said in the release.
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“Our gesture in announcing our intentions for the immediate future is to give people some ability to plan and to shop when they need to. We know this has been difficult for customers at Liquor Marts.”
In an interview with Global News, Ross also criticized MBLL’s move to hire replacement staff at its distribution centre.
“It’s really unfortunate when you hire replacement workers in a job action. It extends the job action … and that just hurts our workers, hurts Manitobans, and really hurts the employer because it takes more time to get this resolved,” he said.
Meanwhile, over at Torque Brewing, the labour dispute also means a slight uptick in visitors to their Saint James neighbourhood taproom.
However, Wolff also anticipates their Liquor Mart sales to drop.
“Liquor stores actually are our largest customer,” Wolff said. “Summertime, having the strike definitely is going to put a little bit of financial difficulty on our main sales, but we’ll see in a couple of months.”