Liquor store employees concerned by 'hasty' proof-of-vaccination requirement

Saskatchewan liquor store employees are asking the provincial government to reconsider its choice to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination from patrons of standalone stores.

The union that represents hundreds of liquor store employees called the choice to bring in the requirement “ill-prepared, knee-jerk decision-making.”

As of Oct. 1, a variety of businesses in Saskatchewan now require visitors to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry, forcing owners and staff to make some adjustments.

The proof is required at businesses including indoor restaurants, bars, gyms, event venues, sporting events. Standalone liquor stores must also meet proof-of-vaccination requirements.

“Other businesses had two weeks of advance notice; our industry was expected to react with only two days’. Now retail workers are facing harassment by customers who were led to expect that there’d be no proof-of-vaccination requirement at liquor stores,” Sharon Friess, chair of SGEU’s Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority bargaining unit, said.

The union said the new policy puts unnecessary stress on employees at standalone retail liquor stores. The rule does not apply at liquor stores located within other businesses, like grocery stores.

“Essentially, the government has told all unvaccinated people to shop at one particular type of liquor store,” said Friess. “This heightens the risk of infection for workers and other patrons at integrated stores and means a loss of business for standalone stores.”

SGEU said in a news release that employees are concerned that residents who are dependent on alcohol had little time to prepare for the change. During pandemic lockdowns in 2020, the province allowed liquor stores to continue operations - saying cutting off access to alcohol for those with dependencies could cause more strain on the healthcare system.