Supreme Court rules Walmart broke Quebec labour code by closing store

The Supreme Court has ruled that Walmart violated Quebec’s labour code by closing store after worker unionization attempt. Mario Beauregard/The Canadian Press

MONTREAL – The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Walmart violated Quebec’s labour code when it closed a store in Jonquiere, Quebec after workers tried to unionize it.

A decision that some experts believe could have ramifications for the rest of the country.

“Walmart may be able to close stores again but they will have to pay (we will see by how much) and this may have a positive impact on unionizing,” Robert Hebdon told Global News.

Hebdon is a professor in McGill University’s Faculty of Management and specializes in organizational behaviour and industrial relations. He said the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision could have implications for all of Canada.

“All Canadian labour laws have a provision that provides for a freeze on conditions during a union recognition drive, thus I think this decision does have implications for the rest of Canada,” he said.

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“Closure should be intrepreted as a change in conditions and thus contrary to all Canadian labour laws.”

In August 2004, the Quebec store was the first Walmart to unionize in North America.

When the collective bargaining dispute was ordered to arbitration, Walmart announced that it would close the store, citing financial reasons.

Quebec employees, represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada, said that the retailer made the decision after they exercised their right to organize, and demanded to be reinstated.

In 2009, Canada’s top court defended the company’s right to close the store, and refused an appeal by Walmart employees.

The company now owes compensation to the workers, which has not yet been determined.

However, Hebdon suggested it could be considerable.

“I would not be surprised if was quite large taking into account retroactivity and interest costs.”

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