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Two patrons read the notice on the door of a closed liquor store in Montreal on Nov. 16, 2018.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

A labour dispute that began with stickers on store windows and wine bottles turned backwards on the shelves has escalated into a three-day weekend strike at Quebec’s provincially run liquor stores.

Unionized employees with the Quebec Liquor Corp. walked off the job Friday morning and will remain out until Monday.

Striking employees picketed in front of the 45 stores that were operated by management workers on Friday.

The union said in a statement its members will continue to picket all weekend at open outlets. The corporation said it will continue filling online orders, but its website says delivery takes three to five business days.

The 5,500 unionized workers who staff the province’s more than 400 retail outlets and work in offices have slowly escalated their pressure tactics as they work under a contract that expired on Mar. 31, 2017.

In addition to six surprise strike days during the summer, store windows have been plastered with union stickers. In some stores, employees turned bottles around so products could not be easily identified and price tags on shelves were flipped upside down.

In September, workers voted 96 per cent in favour of creating a new bank of 18 strike days for use at the union’s discretion.

A management spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment and union president Katia Lelièvre also declined to comment on Friday.

A spokesman for the Confederation of National Trade Unions-affiliated union said negotiations ended Thursday and will resume Sunday, and employees will be back on the job as usual on Monday.

Lelièvre said Tuesday that management’s offer of salary increases lower than the rate of inflation remains the main stumbling block.

The union believes a resolution is possible with an acceptable wage offer.

“For the union, this is one of the only obstacles that still preclude the conclusion of an agreement, as significant progress has been made in other areas of the collective agreement,” it said in a statement on Friday.

Earlier, weekend work hours and conditions of part-time employees – who make up about 70 per cent of staff – were sticking points.

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