Manitoba

Liquor Mart employees' union pushes for Plexiglas shields after worker tests positive for COVID-19

The union representing about 1,300 Liquor Mart workers wants Plexiglas installed at stores to protect employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anyone who visited Garden City store between March 25 - March 28 with symptoms being told to isolate

The Garden City Liquor Mart was closed Wednesday evening for cleaning after a worker tested positive for COVID-19. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The union representing about 1,300 Liquor Mart workers wants Plexiglas shields installed at stores to protect employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The call from the MGEU comes after an employee at the Garden City Liquor Mart tested positive for COVID-19.

It's not known how the employee got the virus but the union says the store did not have Plexiglas shields installed. The employee was in close contact with another person who works at the Main & Pritchard Liquor Mart.

MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said the union has been calling for the protective glass to be installed since the pandemic started.

'These are people's lives'

"I understand that everything takes time but these are peoples' lives, and we've worked well with MBLL in the past and I know that they aren't, they don't make all of the decisions, they're not always all the final decisions but they do need to get on this."

MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said the union has been calling for the protective glass to be installed since the pandemic started. (CBC)

Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday night that it has been diligent in implementing preventative measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The statement says that includes enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures.

"We also continue to look for ways to make our environments safer for employees and customers, including the ongoing installation of [Plexiglas] shields," the statement said.

The Crown corporation has not said how many customers and workers it believes were potentially exposed as a result of close contact with the worker, and has not answered several questions from CBC sent Thursday morning.


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Liquor & Lotteries CEO Manny Atwal said in a statement Thursday night that anyone who visited the Garden City Liquor Mart between March 25 and March 28, and who is showing any symptoms of COVID-19, should self-isolate and call Health Links.

Tracing customers through Air Miles

The Crown corporation would only say Wednesday the employee last worked in the store on Saturday, March 28, and didn't initially provide information about other shifts worked. 

Liquor & Lotteries also said it is reaching out to customers who shopped in store to ensure they are aware of the developing situation. The corporation is also having having Air Miles — which offers points through Liquor Marts — send a message to customers who used an Air Miles card at the Garden City Liquor Mart between March 25 and March 28. 

Information is being posted online, on social media and on signs at the store to try to reach customers who made a purchase without the points card, Liquor & Lotteries said.

Atwal's statement said once the corporation was informed about the case, it reached out to public health officials and immediately closed the store.

Union wants cash transactions suspended

Gawronsky is also calling for Liquor and Lotteries to stop accepting cash from customers and instead accept only debit or credit cards to avoid possible transmission.

She said it's not yet known how the worker contracted COVID-19, but said workers are worried they could get sick from a customer who has the coronavirus.

"It is a major concern on how it is being transmitted."

Gawronsky added Liquor Mart locations have been busier than normal in recent weeks due to panic buying. 

The doors were shut at the Garden City Liquor Mart Wednesday night while it was being cleaned. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

"From what I'm hearing from our membership, the first few weeks were crazy. I guess people were scared and thinking the liquor stores were going to close down."

Manitoba's chief public health officer Brent Roussin was asked Thursday why health officials didn't alert the public about the employee. The case only came to light Wednesday evening when Liquor and Lotteries posted a statement after CBC asked the corporation about it. 

"So public health will announce an exposure if there is a confirmed case that we thought there had been prolonged close contact with, and so it will depend on the investigation of the case," Roussin said. "If there was a confirmed case then and it was thought to benefit the public to announce that then it would have been done."


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

​Austin Grabish joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. In 2019, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Have a story idea? Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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