Union says use of ‘scabs’ by Manitoba Liquor and lotteries unwelcome

Union leaders are accusing the Manitoba government of bad faith bargaining as the labour dispute continues with the General Employees Union and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, the MLCC bringing in “scabs" to undermine the job action.

In a move being called bargaining in bad faith by the union that represents striking Manitoba Liquor and Lottery Corporation employees, the Crown Corporation has started contracting non-union workers to perform jobs impacted by the strike.

“It’s not the way to settle a labour dispute, we want to bargain a deal at the table,” explained Kyle Ross is president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU).

“It just prolongs the strike, when you use replacement workers, and scabs. It’s bad for both sides.”

In mid-July MGEU 1,400 members working in Liquor and Lottery Locations walked off the job.

They’ve been without a contract since March 2022 and are now asking for better wages, in-line with increases Premier Heather Stefanson and MLAs are set to receive of 3.3 and 3.6 per cent over the next two years.

According to MGEU Covert Logistics is the private firm that has been contracted to do the work of striking union members. (Morgan Modjeski/CityNews)

The MGEU say the offer on the table from the employer of 2 per cent over four years, alongside a boost for new hires, falls short.

Rolling labour actions have been taken by both sides of the dispute, with MLCC locking out employees of six stores earlier this week, and MGEU picket lines continuing Wednesday at the King Edward Street distribution centre and outside Premier Heather Stefanson’s constituency office.

Ross says the union is calling on the province to allow the bargaining team from the MLCC more freedom to make a deal, claiming they’re currently operating within a pre-set mandate from the province.

While workers are off the job at the distribution centre and refusing some duties at Manitoba Liquor locations, the flow of booze has only slowed — not stopped — as a private firm has now been contracted to do jobs done by striking workers. It’s a move Ross says exasperates the bargaining process and workers.

“They worked through the pandemic, the ones who are striking now, they worked through the thefts. They were deemed heroes and essential during this time, and now they come back and show us this disrespect, by offering us twos? I think our members are entitled to the same things the premier’s entitled to,” explained Ross.

Kyle Ross, president of the MGEU, says the use of “scabs” by the MLCC will only prolong the labour dispute. (Morgan Modjeski/CityNews)

A Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries spokesperson indicated the move to bring in the contracted workers was not undertaken lightly and “that contract workers cannot replace our own employees and the level of excellence they deliver every day.”

Ongoing labour action will see more closures in the coming days, with all Liquor Mart Express locations closed until further notice starting at 7 a.m. Thursday.

Gerry Sul, CEO and President of Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, says the closures are necessary to manage inventory allocation.

“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,” said Sul.

Ross, however, says the union is calling on the company contracted by the province to stop undermining the labour action of its members and to stop doing the work.

“They’re not making it better, they’re actually making it worse and I really hope that they’ll pull out and stop doing this,” said Ross.

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