Wal-Mart Shuts Down Newly Unionized Tire Shop

Says court-imposed contract increases costs by 30%

Wal-Mart said on Oct. 17 it was shutting down a tire and lube shop in an Ottawa suburb in Canada whose six workers were its only unionized staff in North America. In a statement, Wal-Mart attributed its decision to what it called an "unrealistic" court-imposed labor contract which, it alleged, pushed up costs at the shop in Gatineau, Quebec by more than 30%.

The six employees -- whose workplace was annexed to a bigger Wal-Mart outlet -- will be transferred to other Wal-Mart units, it added.

The move was condemned by Quebec's FTQ labor federation as "a fresh assault by Wal-Mart against the elementary right to unionize." It said the labor agreement, setting out pay increases of close to 30%, reflected salary norms for employees doing comparable work at similar establishments.

Wal-Mart is known as much for its opposition to unions as it is for its pile-'em-high, price-'em-low business model. In 2005 it shut down an entire store in another region of Quebec when its 200 workers sought to organize.

Wal-Mart employs 17,000 associates in Canada, 1.4 million in the U.S., and more than two million in total worldwide, including in China where in July it agreed to collective bargaining with staff in several Chinese cities.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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