The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday that Wal-Mart Canada Corp. was within its rights when it shut down a store in Jonquière, Que., that had been unionized seven months earlier.
In two related decisions, the country’s top court split 6-3 both times in favour of the company.
In September 2004, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 503, was certified to represent employees of the Wal-Mart store in Jonquière. However, attempts to reach a collective agreement failed.
On Feb, 9, 2005, the contract issue was sent to arbitration, but that same day, Wal-Mart told the workers it was closing the store. The store eventually closed on April 29, 2005, putting approximately 190 employees out of work.
The company said the store wasn’t profitable, but appellants said the employer shut it down in response to the organized labour dispute.
In the case of Gaétan Plourde against the company, he had argued that he lost his job at the store because of his union activities. However, the Supreme Court concurred with earlier decisions by Quebec’s Commission des relations du travail (CRT), the Quebec Superior Court, and the Quebec Court of Appeal in ruling in favour of the company.
In the case of Johanne Desbiens, Ingrid Ratté and Claudine Beaumont against the company, the majority of the Supreme Court justices found that the Quebec Court of Appeal erred when it overturned a decision of the Commission des relations du travail.
However, as Justice William Binnie wrote in the majority Supreme Court opinion, as a practical matter it would be a waste of the parties’ time and money to send the case back to the CRT.
"The outcome would not be in doubt," Binnie wrote. "The Jonquière store is closed and there is no possibility of reinstatement of the employees."