The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has filed an application with the Quebec Labour Relations Commission in an attempt to block Wal-Mart Canada from closing a store in Jonquière, Que.
Yvon Bellemare, president of the UFCW Canada Interprovincial Council and UFCW Canada Local 501, said Wal-Mart’s decision to close the store following a vote by employees to unionize was a contravention of s. 15 of the Quebec Labour Code.
“The real reason for shutting the Jonquière store is that the employees stood their ground by unionizing, and not because of any alleged financial difficulties,” said Bellemare. “This closing really amounts to dismissing people for engaging in union activity, and is a violation of the Quebec Labour Code and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms which guarantee the right to free association.”
In its application, the union has asked the commission to:
•Stay the closing of the Jonquière store until the commission has rendered a decision on s. 15 and subsequent sections of the code concerning dismissals and until the commission has rendered a decision on other charges filed against Wal-Mart of harassing employees who support the union.
•Stay the closing of the store for as long as arbitrator Jean-Pierre Tremblay takes to deliver his decision about the terms of the store’s collective agreement. (According to the union, it applied for binding arbitration on Feb. 1, 2005. A week later the Minister of Labour agreed to the arbitration request and on that same day Wal-Mart announced its plans to close the store in May.)
The union is also claiming “exemplary damages for serious and irreparable harm.”
“Since announcing their intention to shut the Jonquière store, Wal-Mart mercenaries have stepped up psychological and other forms of intimidation and harassment of workers who are sympathetic to the union,” said Louis Bolduc, assistant to the national director of UFCW Canada. “In addition, they continue to spread rumours of other possible closures. This is occurring with the full knowledge of the Wal-Mart administration. It is absolutely intolerable, and we are taking action so that employees can work in a healthy atmosphere.”
It also wants the commission to:
•prohibit Wal-Mart from closing any other store in which a unionization campaign is currently in progress;
•grant automatic certification to any store for which an application for certification has been or will be filed; and
•to compel Wal-Mart to pay damages to all employees who have suffered as a result of what the union called “unfair” labour practices.