Labor Organization Renews Couche-Tard Push

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Labor Organization Renews Couche-Tard Push


MONTREAL -- Seven months after launching a massive effort to unionize Couche-Tard stores, the Confederation des syndicats nationaux (CSN) is bringing its fight to the company's shareholders.

The labor group plans to offer three shareholder proposals for consideration at Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.'s annual meeting in September, according to the Financial Post. One proposal, the news outlet reported, calls on the retailer to adopt a policy "promoting respect of freedom of association and collective bargaining" as defined by the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency that oversees international labor standards. CSN argues that it is in the best interest of the shareholders for the company to "clearly assert its commitment to [workers rights]."

For its part, Couche-Tard is urging shareholders to vote against any attempts to unionize its stores. It contends there is no reason or interest because the rights in questions are already protected by the Quebec and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with which the company must comply.

Since CSN went public with its drive to unionize the stores, employees at three locations have won union certification; Couche-Tard closed another store for underperformance while its certification process was underway.

At least one expert predicts CSN will have mild success, at first. "The union will be able to get a first collective agreement for some employees," Alain Barré, a labor relations expert at Université Laval, told the Financial Post. "But I don't think it will go much further than that."

Union accreditation will be revoked after that first agreement expires because the union will lose its majority as employees quit for other jobs, Barré predicted. Organized labor groups have to sign up a majority of employees to be accredited and conserve that majority.