OTTAWA — Wal-Mart Canada says it’s not surprised the highest court in the country has ruled the multinational was entitled to close a store in Quebec in 2005 just as employees were about to unionize.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a 6-3 margin on Friday that Wal-Mart had the right to shut down the Jonquiere outlet about 250 kilometres north of Quebec City and lay off 190 employees.
A top Wal-Mart Canada spokesman says the ruling is consistent with previous decisions from a Quebec labour commission and the Quebec Superior Court and Quebec Court of Appeal.
“The situation in Jonquiere was an unfortunate situation,” Andrew Pelletier, the vice-president of corporate affairs, told The Canadian Press.
“I think most people know that Wal-Mart tried to keep the store open.”
Pelletier added that the company tried to reach a collective agreement but couldn’t persuade the union to agree to a contract “to allow this struggling store to continue.”
“And that’s what led to the ultimate closure.”
During the Supreme Court hearings earlier this year, the company denied it fired its employees because of union activity.
The retail giant said the employees were let go simply because the store was shutting down.
But workers at the outlet said the two events were related.
Pelletier noted the company has a collective agreement with workers at its outlet in St-Hyacinthe and negotiations are going on in other locations.
“There are other pockets of activity and we will continue to respect the process and deal with each situation individually,” he said.
Pelletier said the United Food and Commercial Workers Union has applied to unionize stores in the Saskatchewan communities of Weyburn and North Battleford.
“Those are all either before the courts or the labour board in Saskatchewan being reviewed,” he added.