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A provincial appeals court has sided with workers in their fight to unionize a Wal-Mart store in southern Saskatchewan, ordering the world’s largest retailer to turn over reams of internal documents the union claims show a corporate campaign to derail union drives. In a 28-page ruling released Tuesday, three appeals court judges ordered the documents turned over to the union and the provincial labor relations board, saying it is impossible to determine relevance if the documents have not been produced. “The proper procedure when there is a requirement to produce documents � is to have the documents produced, so that the tribunal charged with determining their relevance will have them available for examination,” the judges wrote. The Saskatchewan Labor Relations Board had requested the papers at the behest of the union, which is trying to organize a Wal-Mart store in Weyburn, in southern Saskatchewan. The board became involved in the case when the United Food and Commercial Workers Union announced a majority of employees had signed membership cards at the store, making union certification automatic under provincial law, but said it was not been able to obtain documents from the retail giant as part of the union certification process. Wal-Mart contended the proposed bargaining unit excluded 29 employees — meaning a true majority has not signed up. Earlier this year, another judge agreed and quashed the labor board’s subpoena, after Wal-Mart argued that the material was irrelevant and requesting it amounted to nothing more than a fishing expedition on the part of the union. A spokesman for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said the company was surprised that the earlier ruling was overturned and that it was considering an appeal. “We’re currently reviewing the decision to determine if we will launch an appeal with the Supreme Court of Canada,” Wal-Mart spokesman Andrew Pelletier told The Associated Press. “An appeal to the Supreme Court is very possible.” Wal-Mart is the world’s largest employer, with 1.5 million employees — 65,000 of them in Canada alone. Wal-Mart has no unionized stores, although workers at a Wal-Mart in Quebec recently had their union accredited by the local labor board and are in negotiations with the company on a contract. Union drives are underway at two other Quebec stores and among automotive workers at seven stores in British Columbia. Across the globe, meanwhile, Wal-Mart said Tuesday it would permit branches of the official Communist Party-controlled union in its Chinese stores if employees requested it. “Should associates request formation of a union, Wal-Mart China would respect their wishes and honor its obligation under China’s Trade Union Law,” said the Bentonville, Ark.-based company in a statement faxed to news media. “Currently, there are no unions in Wal-Mart China because associates have not requested that one be formed,” the statement said. The 123 million-member All China Federation of Trade Unions last month threatened to sue Wal-Mart and other companies based outside China if they don’t set up union branches in their China operations. The federation did not respond to telephone or faxed requests for comment. Wal-Mart, which operates 39 stores in China employing 20,000 people, didn’t say what specifically prompted its announcement. But it did note recent media coverage about the company’s relationship with the union and said the statement was intended to “clarify that relationship.” Shares of Wal-Mart fell 3 cents to $55.65 on the New York Stock Exchange. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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