Wal-Mart Canada has closed an auto center in one of its stores in Gatineau, Que., two months after employees won the right to unionize the tiny operation.
The six employees at the local Tire Lubrication Express won a three-year court battle in August to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada, with the court imposing a 33-per-cent wage increase for the workers to an average $13.76 an hour.
The company could not justify the wage hike, said Wal-Mart Canada spokesman Kevin Groh.
"We think the numbers speak for themselves when the imposed contract would increase operating costs by more than 30 per cent and combined with the fact that TLEs (Tire Lubrication Express) operate under very narrow profit margins, such a large increase could have raised consumer prices by more than 30 per cent," said Groh.
"No business can afford to run an unprofitable unit and it's unlikely customers would accept a 30-per-cent price increase."
In 2005, the company closed a Wal-Mart store in Jonquiere, Que., that had been the first in North America to win union certification. The store had 190 staff.
Wal-Mart's closing of the centre "is another attack on its workers, on the community and one more example of its blatant disregard for Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms," said Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada, in a press release.
"For Wal-Mart to say its employees are free to unionize, but then declare that a contract produced through mediation just doesn't work for their business model means as far as Wal-Mart is concerned, the rights of its American shareholders are more important than the human rights of its workers in Canada."
Five associates and one manager of the tire and lubrication bay at the store were offered jobs at other local Wal-Mart automotive shops, Groh said. The larger retail store in Gatineau that housed the Tire Lubrication Express remains open.