A strike by employees of the state-owned Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) has closed 450 liquor stores.

More than 3,800 workers in the Outlet and Office Employees Union walked out last week, as talks on defining a collective agreement broke down. The employees' last collective agreement expired in 2002.

Current union demands concern part-time workers, who earn C$14.14 an hour, doing shifts at more than one store. Full-time employees earn a maximum of C$32,000 a year, and job security is a major concern.

About 50 of the larger SAQ stores remain open, staffed by management and prompting calls of strike-breaking tactics by the union. The government, fearing a protracted strike entering the holiday season, has appointed a conciliator to get talks to resume.