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A Canadian union is seeking an arbitrator from the Quebec government after reaching an impasse in talks on a first contract for a Wal-Mart store in Quebec. The United Food and Commercial Workers Canada union said Thursday it has reached an impasse with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, after nine bargaining sessions. Talks began in December. Wal-Mart has 1.5 million workers, including 65,000 in Canada. In September, the Quebec Labor Relations Board certified workers at the Jonquiere Wal-Mart as a bargaining unit, marking the first such action at a North America Wal-Mart store. The union is now appealing to Quebec Labor Minister Claude Bechard for help. “Seeing as the conciliation process has not resulted in any progress on major issues for our members, we are asking the minister to appoint an arbitrator,” says Marie-Josee Lemieux, president of UFCW Canada local 503. “There was no progress being made and we felt that a settlement was not possible under the circumstances. Major issues such as work schedules, employee status, and seniority clauses are still unresolved with the employer.” In October, a Wal-Mart spokesman told The Associated Press the Quebec store would need a “reasonable” agreement or would become unprofitable and need to close. Under Quebec law, both parties would choose an arbitrator who has the power to settle outstanding issues and impose a contract. On Jan. 19, employees at a Wal-Mart store in Saint-Hyacinthe also received union certification from the Quebec Labor Relations Commission. First contract talks there will commence shortly. UFCW Canada also has applied to represent workers at 12 other Wal-Mart locations across Canada. Wal-Mart Canada has asked for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada to stop a union move to obtain internal company documents such as one referred to as “Wal-Mart — A Manager’s Toolbox to Remaining Union Free.” Last week, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board ruled that employees at a Colorado Wal-Mart tire department may hold a union election. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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