Wal-Mart workers asked to search store for bomb

Union blasts company for putting worker's safety at risk at Quebec store after a bomb threat was phoned in
|employmentlawtoday.com

Wal-Mart is being blasted by a union for allegedly ordering 40 workers at a Quebec store to search for a bomb after a bomb threat.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union said that on July 5 workers at a Wal-Mart in St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu were ordered by the company to help police search for a bomb, even though police recommended to Wal-Mart that the store should be completely evacuated. Customers were told to leave, but staff weren’t, the union charged.

The union said an investigation is underway by the province and some of the workers continue to be traumatized from the forced search.

"This was a pretty sad message about how much value Wal-Mart puts on the lives of its workers", says Wayne Hanley, national director of UFCW Canada. "But no worker's life is worthless. What made Wal-Mart think it had the right to endanger 40 people without their consent? Why did Wal-Mart usher out its customers but order its workers to stay put? What if a bomb really had been planted? "This is a very troubling story and makes you wonder what kind of information Wal-Mart gives its employees about the labour laws."

Hanley said workers have a legal right to refuse dangerous work with fear of reprisal, and questioned whether or not Wal-Mart told them they could legally refuse before telling them to search for bombs.

But Yanik Deschenes, a Wal-Mart spokesperson, said in an interview with the Canadian Press news agency that the company was only helping police and not endangering employees. Deschenes confirmed that 40 sales clerks were asked to search for the bomb, but insisted nobody was forced to search the store.

"We will never put in jeopardy the security of our employees," he said. "Never, never, never (will) we force them to do such kinds of investigations. If this associate had said or all the associates had said, `We don't want to participate,' there would be no problem. They would have been able to leave the building without hesitation."

Deschenes said police ordered customers out of the store, but told employees to look for any suspicious packages. If anything was found, the police would have taken over.

No bomb was found in the store.

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