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Wal-Mart chooses cheap oil change over Canada’s constitution

Wal-Mart’s closure of unionized store in Gatineau is "is one more example of its blatant disregard for Canada’s constitution," says union’s National President

TORONTO, October 16, 2008 – The closure of a unionized Wal-Mart Tire and Lube Express in Gatineau, Quebec "is another attack on its workers, on the community, and one more example of its blatant disregard for Canada’s constitution," says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada.

"Wal-Mart cares more about a cheap oil change than the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Wal-Mart Canada announced Thursday that it was shutting the Gatineau outlet because a UFCW Canada union contract which came into force in August didn’t fit with its business model. It is the second time Wal-Mart has shut a Quebec outlet after its workers decided to form a union.

In April 2005 Wal-Mart shut its store in Jonquiere, Quebec and terminated more than 200 workers just as binding arbitration for a first contract was set to begin. Later this year the Supreme Court will hear arguments that the shutting of the Jonquiere was a violation of those workers’ rights.

In June 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that under the Charter’s Freedom of Association guaranteed workers in Canada the constitutional right to organize for collective bargaining, "but once again Wal-Mart has proven that the only rules it respects are its own."

"For Wal-Mart to say its employees are free to unionize but then declare that a contract produced through mediation just doesn’t work for their business model, means as far as Wal-Mart is concerned, the rights of its American shareholders are more important than the human rights of its workers in Canada," said Hanley.

"Now it is up to the Supreme Court to tell Wal-Mart that it is not above the law and that it must respect the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively."

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