Union at Quebec Wal-Mart gets green light
Quebec labour board rejects company challenge of unionization at one store
It will be interesting to see what happens next – the history of Wal-Mart and unions in Canada is disgusting on Wal-Mart’s part. When Wal-Mart first entered Canada by purchasing Woolco, they eliminated 1,500 jobs and just by coincidence closed all the stores that were unionised at the time.
If their past behaviour is any guide, Wal-Mart will fight this to the nth degree and try and do everything to block the union or get them out after they get accredited. I would not be surprised if they tried to close the store if all else fails.
MONTREAL – A Quebec labour board has rejected retail giant Wal-Mart’s challenges to the unionization of one of its stores in the province.
Wal-Mart was contesting the composition of the bargaining unit but the decision by the Commission des relations de travail du Québec upholds the list of employees submitted by the union.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union presented signed cards in July from more than half of the eligible workers at the store in Saguenay, about 250 kilometres north of Quebec City. The store has about 150 workers.
Wal-Mart had proposed a longer list of prospective union members in an effort to reduce the majority of support.
Despite the disagreement over the composition of the membership, the labour board accredited the union Aug. 2 because it met the required criteria.
“People are very happy,” Marie-Josee Lemieux, president of the local union, said today in a telephone interview.
“We were euphoric Aug. 2 and that has been reconfirmed today. People are relieved.”
She said the Wal-Mart workers in Saguenay can become a source of hope for the labour movement across North America.
“When we are determined, courageous, convinced, we can change things,” she said.
Lemieux said the union is now preparing to negotiate with the world’s largest department store.
Roch Landriault, spokesman for Wal-Mart in Quebec, was “disappointed” by the decision.
“It’s not a question of contesting the certification itself, except for the composition,” he said.
If the accreditation stands, the Saguenay store could become the only unionized Wal-Mart in North America. However, some butchers working for Wal-Marts in the United States are union members but Wal-Mart is contesting that decision.
Similar store-wide union drives are underway in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia.
Company lawyers will examine the Quebec case to determine if there are other means to contest the composition of the accredited union, he said.
“Wal-Mart wants all hourly employees who have equal status, who aren’t managers, to be part of the accredited unit.”
A first effort to form a union in the store failed last spring.
In its decision, the commission rejected the company’s list of union members.
“Taking into account the evidence submitted by the parties and heard during a hearing, the commission has concluded that the appropriate unit is the one proposed by the workers,” said the written decision released Thursday.
The commission included union cards that were signed before a secret ballot that led to the first failed effort to unionize.
In its decision, the commission said these cards are still legally valid because the applicants didn’t withdraw their support.
Commission spokesman Serge Gagnon said the labour board re-examined the union cards to ensure the support wasn’t withdrawn.