Wal-Mart, the biggest company in the world  (2007 profits neared $13 billion) decided yesterday to close a small tire-and-lube garage in Gatineau, Quebec instead of allowing its 6 workers to unionize. A right that was guaranteed to them last August when a Quebec arbitrator imposed a collective agreement on the company.

The precedent-setting contract was the first ever forced on the Arkansas-based retailer by an outside agency.

The agreement affected eight workers at the garage on Maloney Boulevard in Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa.

Now there are just five mechanics and a manager at the garage, and Wal-Mart said Thursday they will all be offered jobs at other Wal-Mart locations.

The workers are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada.

Wal-Mart said meeting the workers' demands would have forced the company to raise prices at the garage by 30 per cent.

In 2005, Wal-Mart closed an entire store in Jonquière, Que., on the same day Quebec announced an arbitrator would impose a collective agreement there.

Wal-Mart said the decision to close the Jonquière store was unrelated to the announcement, but the precedent led to the union's speculation that the Gatineau Wal-Mart garage would close in the wake of the arbitrator's ruling in August.

Wal-Mart is the biggest company in the world, according to the Fortune 500 rankings, and recorded nearly $13 billion US in profits in 2007. Yet its front-line employees make less than $20,000 US a year, on average, and the company has been cited at least a dozen times for union-busting tactics by government agencies and independent watchdogs.


Robert Greenwalds' scathing 2005 exposé of Wal Mart (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price) brings to light the possible negative effects that today's global corporations can have.

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