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Wal-Mart Canada Workers Obtain Rare Union Contract

Ottawa Employees at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. outlet in Canada won an arbitrator-imposed contract on Friday, becoming the company’s only location in North America with a collective agreement in place, according to a Reuters report.

The contract, imposed after binding arbitration ended in June, affects only eight employees at Wal-Mart's tire and lube garage in Gatineau, Quebec, across the river from Ottawa.

"There has been a decision. This is a first collective agreement for Gatineau, for the garage," Guy Chenier, president of the Gatineau local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers of Canada, told Reuters.

Chenier said he was still studying the agreement and would provide more details later on Friday. There is also a regular Wal-Mart store in Gatineau with a staff of 200.

Labor groups have long criticized Wal-Mart for keeping unions out of its U.S. stores. In 2005 it closed a store in Jonquiere, Quebec, that had been the first in North America to obtain union certification.

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed on Aug. 7 to hear a challenge from former employees at the Jonquiere store, who charge they unfairly lost their jobs because of their union activism.

Wal-Mart Canada insisted they had lost their jobs for the "good and sufficient reason" of the closure of the store.

The Gatineau store was one of several in Canada that had union certification, but until now, no collective agreement was in place.

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