Canada court rules against Wal-Mart over Quebec store closure

Fri Jun 27, 2014 4:05pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer and Allison Martell

OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc violated Quebec's labor code when it closed a store in the province that had become one of the first in Canada to successfully unionize, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Friday.

The ruling was a rebuke to the world's largest retailer, though its impact on unionization efforts at other Quebec and Canadian stores may be limited. The decision took issue with the timing of the 2005 closure, but it did not address the company's right to shut operations.

The court sent the case to an arbitrator to determine appropriate remedies, which will likely include compensation for the 190 workers who lost their jobs when the store, in Jonquiere, Quebec, closed. The closure came shortly after the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union was certified to represent the store's workers in 2004.

Wal-Mart had said it did not close the store because it was being unionized, pointing to the fact that it had reached a collective agreement with the same union at a store in St-Hyacinthe, Quebec.

"We are disappointed by the decision," Wal-Mart said in an emailed statement. "This was an appeal of a unanimous decision by the Quebec Court of Appeal to reject the UFCW's claim, which in our view was a legally correct decision."

The company said it was reviewing the decision to determine its next steps.

In 2009, the Supreme Court backed Wal-Mart's right to close the store, but Friday's win came after the union brought a fresh challenge under a different article in the Quebec Labor Code.

Quebec, a largely French-speaking province, has traditionally been one of the most labor-friendly jurisdictions in North America.   Continued...

A man stands on a skateboard outside a Wal-Mart store in Williston, North Dakota March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton