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Wal-Mart to shut Canada store

Labor leaders say chain seeks to avoid union

NEW YORK -- In the latest salvo in a long-running battle between Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and organized labor, the company said yesterday it will close a Canadian store where about 200 workers were close to winning the first-ever union contract from the world's largest retailer.

Wal-Mart said it was shuttering the store in Jonquiere, Quebec, in response to unreasonable demands from union negotiators that would make it impossible for the store to sustain its business. The United Food & Commercial Workers Canada last week asked Quebec labor officials to appoint a mediator, saying that negotiations had reached an impasse.

''We were hoping it wouldn't come to this," said Andrew Pelletier, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada. ''Despite nine days of meetings over three months, we've been unable to reach an agreement with the union that in our view will allow the store to operate efficiently and profitably."

Pelletier said the store will close in May. The retailer had first discussed closing the Jonquiere store last October, saying that the store was losing money.

Union leaders promised to fight the move by the retailer, and rejected Wal-Mart's stated reasons for closing the store.

''Wal-Mart has fired these workers not because the store was losing money but because the workers exercised their right to join a union," Michael J. Fraser, national director of UFCW Canada, said in a written statement. ''Once again, Wal-Mart has decided it is above the law and that the only rules that count are their rules."

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