Court rules Wal-Mart must compensate workers

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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Canada's Supreme Court ruled Friday that Wal-Mart must compensate former workers at a Quebec store that was closed after they voted to become the first Wal-Mart store in North America to unionize.

The high court ruled in 2009 that Wal-Mart was entitled to close the store in Jonquiere in 2005, seven months after workers voted to unionize. But the workers filed a new case that said Wal-Mart contravened a section of Quebec labor law, which says working conditions must not be altered in any way, shape or form during a unionization process.

The court ruled in a five-to-two decision that the world's largest retailer modified working conditions for the employees without a valid reason when it shut down. The court ruled an arbiter will determine appropriate reparations, possibly with damages and interest. The store never re-opened.

The Arkansas-based company opened its Jonquiere store in 2001. In September 2004, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union was certified to represent employees of the store.

Wal-Mart closed the store in April 2005, just before an arbitrator was to impose a collective agreement for the 190 recently unionized employees.

A spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada said Friday the company will consider its options.

"We are disappointed by the decision," the company wrote in an email.