Union contract imposed at Ste-Hyacinthe Wal-Mart

Giant retailer won't say whether it will close store as it did when operations were unionized in Jonquiere and Gatineau.

Ste-Hyacinthe (10 April 2009) - A Quebec arbitrator has imposed the first legal union contract on Wal-Mart in North America, nearly four years after workers at its retail store in Ste-Hyacinthe voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada).

The company refused to say whether it would close the store to keep its operations free of unions, an option it exercised in 2004 after employees at another Quebec store in Jonquiere voted to unionize.

Last October, the company also closed a small automotive shop in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa, after employees unionized and an arbitrator imposed a contract granting workers a 33% increase.

The excuse used by the Arkansas-based retail giant to justify both closures was that its operations would not be make enough money with unionized staff.

Since the Gatineau closure, employees at Wal-Mart's main Gatineau retail operation have also voted to join UFCW Canada.

The Ste-Hyacinthe ruling affects approximately 200 workers. The agreement gives them a 30-cent-an-hour increase annually over a two-year contract. Newly hired employees will not be entitled to the increase.

UFCW Canada spokesman Louis Bolduc said employees are delighted. "We feel good," he told the CBC. "It's the only collective agreement [of its kind] in North America. We're really glad to have one."

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has signed a protocol with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada) to support and cooperate in the UFCW's campaign to organize workers at Wal-Mart stores across Canada. NUPGE

More information:
Wal-Mart workers unionized at third store in Quebec

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