Quebec Wal-Mart workers have union contract

Arbitrator awards three-year deal with a 30-per-cent wage increase

Eight employees at a Wal-Mart in Gatineau, Que., are the first North American Wal-Mart employees to have a collective agreement.

The employees, who work in a Wal-Mart tire and lube garage in the store, won an arbitrator-imposed contract after binding arbitration between the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant and the United Food and Commercial Workers of Canada ended in June.

The three-year contract includes a more than 30-per-cent wage increase and improved vacation provisions for the employees at the Wal-Mart Tire and Lube Express. The terms of the collective agreement are effective immediately.

"Wal-Mart should now act as a good Canadian corporate citizen and live up to the terms of the contract," said UFCW Canada national president Wayne Hanley.

The UFCW Canada Local 486 bargaining unit at the Wal-Mart Tire and Lube Express was certified in 2005. The collective agreement was the result of binding arbitration, following almost three years of legal delays and negotiations with the company.

"We believe the arbitrator did a good job and that it is a fair contract, in line with similar workplaces in Quebec," said Hanley.

Two more Wal-Mart collective agreements are expected in Quebec before the end of the year, when binding arbitration is complete for bargaining units at a Wal-Mart in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec.

Wal-Mart has worked hard over the years to keep unions out of its North American stores. It even closed down a store in Jonquiere, Que., the first in North America to obtain union certification.

On Aug. 7 the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear a challenge from former employees at the Jonquiere store who say they lost their jobs because of their union activism.

Wal-Mart Canada has stated the employees were let go only because the store was closed.

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