February 18, 2005

Quebec Labor Minister Shifted to Transport

I doubt his replacement will be any less pro-WM-union:

Former Labour Minister Michel Despr�s is now Transportation Minister...

Before politics, Despr�s was operations manger of Groupe gestion Sal Tan Inc., and Director general, Association qu�b�coise de l'industrie de la p�che. He also acted as special adviser, Department of Canadian Heritage.

Most recently as labour minister, Despr�s has been battling a Saguenay Wal-Mart store along with the Quebec Federation of Labour, which has been trying to get a collective agreement for a newly-established union. Wal-Mart Canada announced it will close the store on May 6 because it's not profitable.

Earlier this week Despres ordered that the collective bargaining process continue despite the threatened closure. He [sic] said he would impose an arbitrator who will have the power to impose a contract if Wal-Mart and the union don't agree on one by Feb. 19.

Note however, that Despres recognizes that the government arbitrator does not have the authority to force WM to keep the store open:
In Quebec City, provincial Labour Minister Michel Despres said the collective bargaining process at the Saguenay store will continue despite the threatened closure.

Despres said he will impose an arbitrator if Wal-Mart and the union don't agree on one by Feb. 19. The arbitrator will have the power to impose a contract between Wal-Mart and the union before the store closes.

However, the arbitrator would not have the power to force the Saguenay store to remain open, Despres said.

Andrew Pelletier, a Wal-Mart spokesman, called arbitration a "normal course of action" that would proceed whether the store was open or not.

"We're going to respect the process and that's part of the process," he said in a telephone interview from Toronto. "We've bargained in good faith all along and we've always respected the process.

"The union walked away from the bargaining process, not us," he added, noting that bargaining sessions had been scheduled for a few more months.

Meanwhile the union doesn't like this one bit:
Noel Mallette, a labor-relations professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal, said the union�s strategy is doomed to fail. "Under Quebec law, Wal-Mart has the right to close the store," Mallette said in a telephone interview Monday. "There is nothing illegal in what they did. All the minister can do is put political pressure in Wal-Mart, but he has no legal recourse."

The union also said Monday it plans to file an unfair labor practice complaint to the Labor Minister against Wal-Mart, while asking the Quebec Labor Relations Commission to force the company to prove that the Jonquiere store was unprofitable. Jonquiere is about 290 miles north of Montreal. "How do I know they are profitable? Because the parking lot is full," Fraser said.

OK, so release the profit data, but also release transcipts and documentation for the collective bargaining negotiations. Let us decide. Neither WM nor the unions would dare give up control of their messages.

Posted by Kevin on February, 18 2005 at 01:36 PM