Labour Studies Index

Freedom of Association in a Free Enterprise System: Wal-Mart in Jonquière

Document type Article
Author MacNeil, Michael
Journal Canadian Labour & Employment Law Journal
Volume 15
Date 2009-2010
Pages 495-540

Abstract

In April 2005 Wal-Mart Canada closed a store in Jonquière, Quebec, following a successful certification application by the United Food and Commercial Workers and an impasse in collective bargaining. When the union succeeded in having an arbitrator appointed (under the "first contract" provisions of the Quebec Labour Code') to decide on the terms of a collective agreement, Wal- Mart immediately announced that it would close the store. It did so less than two months later, putting 190 employees out of work. The union and the affected workers claimed that the closing violated the Quebec Labour Code because it interfered with freedom of association and discriminated against employees who had exercised rights under the Code. The matter reached the Supreme Court of Canada. On November 27, 2009, that Court decided two cases arising from the Jonquière store closing - the leading case of Plourde and the companion case of Desbiens. In Plourde, where the Court was split 6 to 3, Justice Binnie's majority judgment concluded that the laid-off workers could not obtain relief under s. 15 of the Quebec Labour Code, prohibiting discrimination against workers who exercise rights.