The union representing workers at a Zellers in Burnaby, B.C. has filed an application with the B.C. Labour Relations Board, asking for Target to be declared as the “successor employer” when the company opens operations in Canada.
American-based Target plans to convert 135 Canadian Zellers stores by 2013. Their current plan is to let go of all of the Zellers staff and hire its own employees.
Currently, 15 Zellers stores are unionized.
By asking the B.C. Labour Relations Board to declare Target as the “successor employer,” the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union hopes the soon-to-be Target store will continue to be unionized and keep the workers employed. Canadian labour laws require successor companies to hold on to unions if the company is opening a similar business in the same area.
“The reason we filed this application is to ensure Target honours its legal obligation under B.C. labour law,” says UFCW Local 1518 president Ivan Limpright. “After Target bought Zellers earlier this year, we made a point of reassuring our Zellers members that their long-term job security is a top priority for the union.”
Limpright says UFCW 1518 intends to resume negotiations for a renewal collective agreement shortly. The union expects contract talks will continue during the Labour Board hearing.
Lisa Gibson, a spokeswoman for Target, told the Globe and Mail the acquisition of Zellers leases “is a real estate transaction and not the acquisition of a business, technology or employees. As such, we do not believe Target is a successor employer under applicable law and do not believe that there was reasonable cause to file a successorship application.”
Gibson indicated that Target will contest the application.
Canada is not new to American-owned operations opposing unionization when setting up shop north of the border. After a Jonquiere, Que. Wal-Mart voted to unionize in 2005, the company shut down the store.
Earlier this year, 150 Wal-Mart employees in Gatineau, Que. decertified their union after just one year with their first collective agreement. Employees at a St-Hyacinthe, Que. Wal-Mart decertified their union in March 2011 after the union spent years in court trying to achieve an agreement.
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