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The New York Times reports that a Quebec government arbitrator has ruled that eight employees who work in a Walmart automotive department in Gatineau, Canada, are to be covered by a three-year contract with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) – making the eight the only unionized Walmart employees in North America.

According to the Times, “The three-year agreement provided eight employees with an improved wage scale, annual raises and a grievance process for settling disputes. The number of workers covered by the contract is small; there are about 250 employees in other parts of the Gatineau store and 77,000 Wal-Mart workers in Canada. But the United Food and Commercial Workers union hailed the decision as an important step in its prolonged effort to unionize Wal-Mart’s employees.”

This is just the latest fracas in Walmart’s continuing battle with labor unions in Canada. In 2005, employees at a Walmart store in Jonquière, Quebec, voted to unionize…and Walmart responded by closing the store, saying it was unprofitable. The UFCW has continued to challenge that decision, and the case is scheduled to be heard by the Canadian Supreme Court.

Walmart responded to the ruling by saying it was disappointed but needed to review it before making any decisions.

The Vancouver Sun notes that there is a newer Walmart just four kilometers away from the Gatineau location, which leaves open the possibility that Walmart could decide to close the older store. But Walmart isn’t commenting. Yet.

KC's View:
Just a guess here, but I suspect that if you are looking for a place to open a big box store, there’s about to be a vacancy in Gatineau.

There’s no way Walmart takes this lying down. There are too many implications, too many precedents at stake.

Last one out of the Gatineau store, don't forget to turn off the lights.