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New Collective Agreement at Wal-Mart


Thanks to Stephanie Bernstein, U. Quebec at Montreal, for passing along the award in the Wal-mart interest arbitration.  Stephanie points out an interesting aspect of the decision, which is the union’s argument concerning the Quebec Collective Agreement Decrees Act (par. 64 ff., 89-91). Garage employees are covered by a decree (ie. mandatory conditions, including pay scale) in several regions of Quebec- there isn’t a decree in the Gatineau region, but in 35 of 45 Wal-Marts in Québec (non unionized) garage employees are covered by a decree. The union used the salary and other conditions in the decrees in the other regions to justify many of its demands. Thus, Stephanie pointed out, Wal-Mart is thus a bit hard-pressed to say that the wage and other increases provided for in the collective agreement will make the garage unprofitable and incompatible with Wal-Mart’s “business model” (see par. 89-91 of the arbitrator’s decision).

While Wal-Mart is busy getting to defend its decision to close one unionized store in Quebec in the Supreme Court, it finds itself with a new arbitrator imposed collective agreement at another Quebec store.   The agreement covers only 9 employees in the garage area, but it includes significant wage increases. Wages will rise from $9.25 per hour to $15.94 per hour over two years.   Quebec law provides for first contract interest arbitration, and the arbitrator accepted that the union’s proposed wage schedule was fair and reasonable.   The minimum wage in Quebec is $8.50 per hour.  The wage increases assume, of course, that Wal-Mart doesn’t just close the auto shop in accordance with its modus operandi of resisting and then avoiding unions.  

Wal-Mart’s second-quarter profits just increased by 17 percent, up to $102.7 billion (U.S.).  Yet when the arbitration award for 9 employees in Quebec called for $6 raise over two years, Wal-Mart quickly declared that “this will have a significant impact on our business model, which is to offer the best prices to our clientele.”   In other words, the business model depends upon ensuring their workers are paid a wage at or just slightly above the minimum wage.  Hmm, easy to see why all those Wal-Mart workers in those t.v. commercials think that Wal-Mart is the best thing that ever happened to them!


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