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This article was published 17/9/2018 (490 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A move away from grocery-style shopping to one strictly controlled by staff is an idea being floated by the union representing Manitoba liquor store employees in the wake of a rash of thefts during the last year.
Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, said the union has asked for — and received — an urgent meeting with management at Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corporation.
Gawronsky said one of the ideas the union wants to discuss to reduce the amount of customer theft at Manitoba Liquor Marts is whether it would be better to go back to having customers fill in a form to order liquor, and having employees bring the product from a secured area to the cashier.
"Sometimes, the old way is the best way," she said Monday. "We are alarmed by the brazen nature of recent robberies and we share the fear of Liquor Mart employees that this will continue to increase if additional new safety measures are not implemented.
"We feel our members can be part of the solution and that they have valuable insight and ideas on how to improve safety. Talking about security solutions in public can undermine their effectiveness."
Last week, MLL provided statistics which showed about $800,000 worth of liquor had been stolen from Manitoba liquor outlets in almost 1,300 thefts in the last year.
It was also confirmed MLL has instructed its security guards not to intervene when thefts take place.
In one such incident last week — described by a spokeswoman for MLL as "shocking and disturbing" — three teenage males, one armed with what turned out to be a fake handgun, grabbed two bottles of booze and ran to the door while one pointed the weapon at an employee.
No one was hurt in the incident and three suspects were arrested and charged with armed robbery and other offences.
Gawronsky said a meeting has been scheduled at the end of the month between the union and management.
However, she said the union wants another meeting, which would include the employees themselves. She said her members have also reported thefts are a problem at liquor outlets across the province.
"We want to sit down with the employer and police to find the right solutions to protect employees and the public," Gawronsky said.
Andrea Kowal, MLL director of communications, said in a statement "Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries has a strong relationship with all of our unions and regularly meets with them to discuss issues."
"Like the MGEU, we are very concerned about the safety and security of our employees. A meeting with the union has been scheduled and we look forward to sitting down to discuss solutions that address the issue of thefts in our Liquor Marts," she wrote. "We will not be providing any comment on what these discussions might entail."
There are a total of 1,211 members of the MGEU who work at the province’s liquor stores, including 687 in Winnipeg, 302 in liquor stores elsewhere in Manitoba and 222 in other roles including administration, distribution and warehouse.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.