BOARD APPROVES UNION AT QUEBEC WAL-MART STORE

MONTREAL -- The Labour Board of Quebec here last week granted union certification to employees at a Wal-Mart store in Jonquiere, Quebec, in a decision Wal-Mart Canada called "disappointing," and labor termed "historic and inspiring."United Food and Commercial Workers officials said the decision was a step toward the Jonquiere outlet becoming the first North American Wal-Mart store whose employees

MONTREAL -- The Labour Board of Quebec here last week granted union certification to employees at a Wal-Mart store in Jonquiere, Quebec, in a decision Wal-Mart Canada called "disappointing," and labor termed "historic and inspiring."

United Food and Commercial Workers officials said the decision was a step toward the Jonquiere outlet becoming the first North American Wal-Mart store whose employees are represented by a union. Yet Wal-Mart Canada, a division of Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., said it is "reviewing" the board's decision to "automatically certify" the union without a vote, but offered no comment on whether it would appeal.

A hearing is set for Aug. 20 in which the size and composition of the bargaining unit will be discussed. UFCW Local 503, Quebec City, would represent the workers. Jonquiere is a small town in northern Quebec, about 150 miles north of Quebec City.

The certification decision marks the latest tangle between Wal-Mart and labor unions in Canada, particularly in Quebec and Saskatchewan, which are perceived to be labor-friendly provinces.

Jonquiere workers in April lost a union bid by eight votes, but under Quebec labor laws the board has discretion to grant union status based on cards signed. "We respect the legal process, but we're concerned that Wal-Mart employees were not given a chance to vote in a secret ballot," Andrew Pelletier, director of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart Canada, Toronto, told SN.

Michael Forman, a spokesman for UFCW Canada, Toronto, told SN the board decision was "historic and inspiring," and predicted "Jonquiere will be become a union store." He said bargaining typically begins around three months after certification.