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Wal-Mart denies harassment

Union says workers' freedoms of expression denied by retailer

Wal-Mart Canada denies it psychologically harassed three workers at a Jonquiere store the company closed shortly after its employees voted to unionize.

Wal-Mart lawyer Frederic Masse asked Quebec's labour board last week to throw out a complaint filed in March by a local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

The complaint alleges management at the Jonquiere outlet "exerted pressure, intimidation, threats and constraints" on the three employees to prevent them from supporting the union drive.

The union claims that in doing so, the retail giant denied the workers their freedoms of expression and association, and their right to unionize.

"The employer created a climate of terror and apprehension," the complaint reads.

Masse asked the board to dismiss the claims of harassment on the ground they were settled during separate legal proceedings brought forth by the employees.

Union lawyer Claude Leblanc rejected that argument, saying the other proceedings dealt with illegal dismissal and not psychological harassment.

A group of workers from the store is seeking leave to file a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart, claiming $20,000 each for damages.

Wal-Mart closed the Jonquiere store in April, not long after the 200 workers received union accreditation, but before they could sign a collective agreement.

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