Union certified at Wal-Mart store in Saskatchewan

After a five-year battle between company and union, Weyburn, Sask., is now home to the only unionized Wal-Mart in Western Canada.

After a five-year battle between company and union, Weyburn, Sask., is now home to the only unionized Wal-Mart in Western Canada.

The retail store in southeast Saskatchewan has been officially certified, according to a 71-page decision from the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board that was released Monday. 

The company, though it plans to fight the decision, has been ordered to begin negotiating a contract with the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

Wal-Mart had disputed the union's April 2004 certification application before the labour board and the courts, including two bids before the Supreme Court of Canada.

UFCW says now that the board has ruled, it hopes to negotiate a collective agreement over the next three months.

"We will contact Wal-Mart," UFCW local 1400 president Paul Meinema said Tuesday.

"We will ... go through, start the process of collective bargaining. And we hope to negotiate a collective agreement that is good for our members there in Weyburn."

Company fights on

But Wal-Mart says it will fight the labour board's decision through the courts.

Wal-Mart Canada spokesman Andrew Pelletier said the decision is unjust because some employees didn't get to vote on whether to unionize.

"We're disappointed," he said. "Clearly, you know, our associates have been denied here a vote. They've been denied a democratic process. And we believe they should have that process."

The union has been critical of the retail giant in the past for closing or threatening to close stores that were unionized. The vast majority of Wal-Mart's stores are non-union.

In Quebec, a Wal-Mart store and a company-operated oil-and-lube shop were closed after unions got in.

The UFCW says it hopes the Saskatchewan ruling will pave the way for more organizing of stores, including those in North Battleford and Moose Jaw, Sask.

Weyburn is about 115 kilometres southeast of Regina.