Workers at the Crown Royal distillery in Gimli, Man., hit the picket lines today after stalled negotiations with Diageo Canada, the company that runs the plant.
"We're conducting a legal picket line in Gimli and hoping to get the company to come back to the table to continue talks," UFCW Local 832 president Jeff Traeger said.
On Friday night, UFCW Local 832 announced its members voted down the company's more recent offer in near-unanimous fashion, with 98 per cent rejecting the deal.
"Certainly the final offer we received from the company yesterday wasn't anywhere near a fair shake," Traeger said.
The announcement comes a month after 53 workers voted 100 per cent in favour of striking in the event a fair deal could not be reach with Diageo. They are picketing in shifts of 25 people throughout the day.
Putting the possibility of a strike on the table helped the bargaining process move along over the last month, but the employer and workers were still unable to reach an agreement, the union said.
"Our members go to work every day with the mindset that they are making the world's greatest whisky," Traeger said in a statement.
"The membership believes that if the company put the same effort into this round of bargaining we wouldn't be on strike."
Northern Harvest Rye
Traeger cited the award-winning, massively popular Northern Harvest Rye produced at the plant as a sign of how well Diageo is doing as a company.
Crown Royal's Northern Harvest Rye was declared "a masterpiece" on Nov. 20, 2015, by renowned British whisky expert Jim Murray. Since then, bottles of the special blend have been flying off shelves in Manitoba and across the country whenever liquor stores replenish their stocks, Traeger said.
"The company is doing very well selling this product, as well as Crown Royal, and Diageo is a world organization that sells all kinds of premium liquors around the world and they make a lot of money," he said.
"The settlement that's on the table [that] they offered is not reflective of a company that's doing as well as they are, and not reflective of what kind of settlements we've been seeing in the industrial sector over the last year."
Workers are asking for health and welfare benefits, wage increases and more vacation time.
"I would think the early part of this week we're going to work hard to get the company back to the table, either voluntarily or with a provincial conciliator, and hopefully get a more reasonable offer we can bring to our members," Traeger said.
The strike got underway Saturday in Gimli, about 90 kilometres north of Winnipeg.