February 10, 2005 in Business

Wal-Mart to shut Canadian store over labor dispute

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Pierre Martineau, left, and Patrice Bergeron, two of the Wal-Mart workers who initiated the unionization, stand in front of the store in Jonquiere, Que.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Wednesday it will close a Canadian store whose workers are on the verge of becoming the first ever to win a union contract from the world’s biggest retailer.

Wal-Mart said it was shuttering the store in Jonquiere, Quebec, in response to unreasonable demands from union negotiators, that would make it impossible for the store to sustain its business. The United Food & Commercial Workers Canada last week asked Quebec labor officials to appoint a mediator, saying that negotiations had reached an impasse.

“We were hoping it wouldn’t come to this,” said Andrew Pelletier, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada. “Despite nine days of meetings over three months, we’ve been unable to reach an agreement with the union that in our view will allow the store to operate efficiently and profitably.”

Pelletier said the store will close in May. The retailer had first discussed closing the Jonquiere store last October, saying that the store was losing money.

A spokesman for the UFCW said Wednesday the union had not yet seen the retailer’s statement, and that leaders were traveling and not immediately available for comment.

Some employees at the store said they believed the store was closing because of their agreement to join the union and several cried as they left the store.

The store in Jonquiere, about 240 miles northeast of Montreal, became the first unionized Wal-Mart store in North America last September, after the bargaining unit was certified by provincial labor officials.

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