All Manitoba-owned Liquor Mart stores to be closed this weekend

Every government-owned Liquor Mart in Manitoba will be closed this weekend, marking the first across-the-board shutdown since an ongoing labour dispute started July 19 with a one-day walkout.

The operating hours on the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries website shows all 63 stores in the province will be closed Saturday and Sunday.

The site also indicates all stores will be closed every weekend for the rest of the month.

Unionized staff at the stores, as well as the Liquor & Lotteries distribution centre on King Edward Street in Winnipeg, have been stepping up job action since their first walkout last month. 

They gradually expanded the walkouts, forcing management to operate some of the retail locations at times and prompting some lockouts by Liquor & Lotteries, leading up to a full strike that began on Tuesday.

Since then, five Winnipeg Liquor Marts have been kept open by managers, along with a Brandon store and the store in Thompson.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, which represents the striking workers, had previously said it was avoiding pulling workers from stores for long stretches because it wanted Manitobans to be able to buy liquor through the summer.

But on Monday this week, the union announced it would begin a full strike, a move it said was prompted by the corporation’s intention to close more stores.

CBC News has reached out to Liquor & Lotteries to ask about the decision to close stores this weekend, but has not received a response.

Throughout the dispute, Liquor & Lotteries has been directing customers to check its website for the latest updates.

A spokesperson for the union, in an email, simply said “this is an operational question for the employer.”

On Thursday, MGEU president Kyle Ross said his members would willingly go back to work if they were offered a fair deal. 

According to the union’s last collective agreement, which expired in March 2022, full-time Liquor Mart clerks make about $20 to $24 per hour, while part-time clerks receive $15 to $17 an hour.

The most recent offer by the Crown corporation includes a signing bonus for workers who’ve clocked more than 330 hours in a year, as well as a two per cent wage increase each year, with additional bumps to ensure those at the bottom end of the pay scale get legislated minimum wage increases, Liquor & Lotteries CEO Gerry Sul told CBC earlier this week.

MGEU has previously said a 3.3 per cent increase would be fair, as that number is tied to the consumer price index.