SAQ employees launch weekend-long strike across the province

The union is asking employees to to go to their usual branch Friday morning and join picket lines. Managers will open some stores and the SAQ's online shopping will remain available throughout the weekend.

Managers will open some stores and online shopping will remain available

A sign on the door of the SAQ at Atwater Market indicates it's closed because employees are on strike. However, this is one of the locations that will stay open — managers will operate the store through the weekend. ( Lauren McCallum/CBC)

Some Quebecers are going to wish they got their wine and liquor shopping done earlier this week —  the provincial liquor board's employees will be on strike for three days, starting today.

On Friday morning, the SAQ announced the labour dispute will close "many stores" until Monday.

The Crown corporation recommends customers check the website for a list of stores where managers, who are not part of the union, will work instead of the striking employees.

Earlier this week, the Syndicat des employé-es de magasin et de bureau de la SAQ, which represents 5,500 workers, warned that the weekend-long strike was in the cards if an "an acceptable salary offer" wasn't brought to the table.

The union has said the two sides are close to reaching a deal. Its president, Katia Lelièvre, has said negotiations could continue during the strike.

Union leaders are hopeful

Union members, who have have been holding strikes since June, recently approved an 18-day bank of strike days to use when deemed appropriate. Employees are demanding better wages and improved work-family balance.

SAQ outlets across the province have been covered in stickers for weeks, as employees and the Crown corporate negotiate a new collective agreement. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

"The negotiations are not broken. They ended yesterday. There is another meeting planned, in principle, on Sunday," Ann Gingras told Radio-Canada Friday. She is president of the union's central committee in the Québec–Chaudière-Appalaches region.

"You know, there is not much that separates the two parties." 

Pascale Sauvageau, representing the union's eastern branch, also hopes a deal will be reached soon.

"We're not demanding a lot," she told Radio-Canada as protesters chanted behind her outside an SAQ location in Quebec City, waving signs.

It's time, she said, for the SAQ and the Quebec government to take that final step needed to ensure a collective agreement is signed after months of negotiation. The collective agreement expired on March 31, 2017.

"We want to return to the stores," she said. "We want to have a life that is more stable and easier."

With files from Radio-Canada