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Wal-Mart to now be certified by UFCW

It is official. The Weyburn Wal-Mart store will be certified for representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Local 1400, in a ruling released by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal on Thursday.

It is official. The Weyburn Wal-Mart store will be certified for representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Local 1400, in a ruling released by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal on Thursday.

"This is a victory for workers rights and the principle that no company is above the law," said Norm Neault, the president of UFCW Canada Local 1400. "Wal-Mart has done everything it could to prevent the workers from getting a collective agreement. It has even prevented us from communicating with the workers at the store. But the time for stalling is over. Let's get back to the bargaining table and start talking."

According to Andrew Pelletier, the vice-president of corporate affairs and sustainability for Wal-Mart Canada, they are reviewing the decision made by the Court of Appeal. "We are disappointed that our associates didn't get their democratic right to vote on the certification."

Hearings on the certification application for the Weyburn Wal-Mart by UFCW have been conducted by the Labour Relations Board since December 2004. Related court proceedings continued until 2007, after which a general election of the Labour Relations Board took place.

The UFCW had previously won their certification from the Labour Relations Board in December 2008. The Wal-Mart appealed the decision based on recent changes to the Trade Union Act. Contract talks between the two groups occurred once in February, and before their second meeting at the table in April the appeal went to Court of Queen's Bench, which had halted any further contract talks.

On June 23, the Court of Queen's Bench ruled in favour of the Weyburn Wal-Mart's appeal against the certification order made by the UFCW and the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board. The UFCW appealed the decision, forcing the issue back into the court of appeal.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal heard the case on Dec. 2, 2009 and released the written decision to certify the UFCW in the Weyburn Wal-Mart on Oct. 14.

"In this case, the evidence had been presented to the Labour Relations Board and all of the legal arguments had been made by December of 2005," stated Judge J.A. Richards in the written decision for the Court of Appeal. "The new section of The Trade Union Act did not come into force until May of 2008. Matters before the Labour Board had been wrapped up long before the amendments came into force."

"I respectfully conclude that the Chambers judge erred in quashing the Labour Board's decision," noted Richards. "The requirement for an employee vote, added to The Trade Union Act in 2008, did not govern the determination of the Union's certification application."

"The Supreme Court had said 'no' to Wal-Mart. The Court of Appeal has now said 'no' to them and 'yes' to the rights of the Weyburn workers to bargain collectively," said Neault. "We look forward to the opportunity to get these members an agreement and hope that Wal-Mart's history of thwarting the process isn't repeated again."

Since the original certification of the Weyburn Wal-Mart in 2008, there has been a drastic change to employees. "There are only nine employees at our Weyburn location who were working there during the 2008 certification; it is not the same group of employees," said Pelletier. "It would be only fair to give these associates their right to vote, as stated under the new Trade Union Act."

According to Pelletier, one of the options available to Wal-Mart is to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. This process would be quite lengthy and detailed as, "we would have to first seek a leave (from certification negotiations) before we could apply for an appeal to the Supreme Court."

Neault noted that with the Court of Appeal verifying the certification for UFCW, that it is "now a matter of position for the employer, Wal-Mart, to see if they will attempt to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, or return back to the bargaining table. We are anxious to arrange a collective agreement that will improve the wages and benefits of the Wal-Mart employees, and give them protection."

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