Shoppers arrived at some Quebec liquor stores Tuesday to find the doors locked and no employees in sight.

Workers at the SAQ’s 404 outlets walked off the job around 10 a.m.

The move came a few weeks after the workers handed their union a mandate to take up to six days of strike action. The days do not have to be taken consecutively.

As the strike unfolded, SAQ and union representatives remained in active discussions about a new contract. Union officials say the two sides have been negotiating for more than a year without reaching a deal, and the walkout was the result of two bargaining sessions last week that ended without a contract.

The heart of the dispute is over working conditions. Union vice-president Simon Desjardins told CTV News Montreal that 70 per cent of the union’s 5,500 members are part-time employees, and it typically takes 12 to 14 years before they can achieve the security of full-time status and benefits.

It was expected that the larger SAQ stores would remain closed during the strike days, with smaller stores staying open while staffed by management personnel. A full list of open stores was published on the SAQ website.

Demonstrators were expected to set up picket lines later Tuesday outside some of the open stores.

With a report from CTV Montreal’s Stéphane Giroux