Union zeroes in on Target

5/25/2011

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union that won a collective agreement for workers at a Wal-Mart in Quebec is now setting its sights on Target Corp.

What’s at issue is the retailer’s deal to take on the leases of up to 220 Zellers stores, without automatically hiring the chain’s partially unionized staff at 18 stores in 12 locations in Ontario and Quebec.

Zellers employees will have to apply for new jobs, and the risk of losing seniority or other benefits is a matter of concern in Quebec where labour laws protect employees’ rights of succession. The laws stipulate that employees of a company that is sold must be given employment with the same benefits if the new owner works in the same sector.

If Target just changes the banner name and still sells the same items that were sold at Zellers, the employees could be protected, say some labour experts.

For Target, it’s simply a real-estate transaction, and the retailer says it isn’t obligated to hire Zellers’ employees. As Target rolls out 100 to 150 stores over two years beginning in 2013, it will fill 20,000 retailing jobs.

In the U.S., the UFCW is trying to organize 5,000 workers at 27 Target stores in the New York City area.

In 2009, the UFCW’s Quebec chapter won a historic collective agreement for workers at the St. Hyacinthe Wal-Mart, south of Montreal. Today, the UFCW only represents employees at the Wal-Mart in Hull, Que.

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