Walmart wrong to fire unionized workers: Supreme Court

Unionized workers in Jonquière must be compensated, high court says

The Supreme Court of Canada has found in favour of Quebec workers who were fired from a Wal-Mart in Jonquiere, Que., after it shut its doors suddenly and says the former employees must be compensated.

In a five-to-two decision, the country's highest court says the retail giant modified working conditions for the employees without a valid reason when it shut down the store in 2005.

Because it's impossible to order the employees be re-hired, the court is sending the case to an arbiter who will determine appropriate reparations, possibly with damages and interest.

The closing of the store has been the subject of a lengthy judicial saga that has played out in various phases before the courts.

The store shut down a few months after the 190 workers became the first Wal-Mart employees in North America to be unionized in 2004.

The workers, who belonged to the United Food and Commercial Workers union, said it was their activities with that group that led to the closure.

They have said the closure was part of a worldwide strategy by the retail giant to stop other workers from unionizing elsewhere.

Friday's judgment stems from a complaint filed by the union against Wal-Mart that alleged the enterprise had modified working conditions — by eliminating their jobs — which it said contravened a section of the Quebec Labour Code.

An arbiter had ruled in favour of the union, but that decision was overturned by the Quebec Court of Appeal.

It's not the first time the Supreme Court has had to deal with the issue.

In 2009, the high court ruled that Wal-Mart was within its rights to shut down the store.

Friday's judgment puts an end to the various legal battles initiated by the former employees against Wal-Mart.

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