Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Couche-Tard Shareholder Meeting Turns Test over Anti-Union Stance

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Couche-Tard Shareholder Meeting Turns Test over Anti-Union Stance

Article excerpt

Couche-Tard shareholder meeting turns testy

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LAVAL, Que. - The chief executive of Alimentation Couche-Tard got into a testy exchange with some shareholders at its annual meeting Friday over the convenience store giant's anti-unionization stance.

Alain Bouchard cut off a union leader and shareholder who sought an explanation about the company's fight against efforts to unionize several of its stores in Quebec.

"You are out of order. Next question," he said, before a security guard switched off the questioner's microphone and unsuccessfully tried to remove her from the room.

The exchange prompted a long-term shareholder to admonish the company founder about his attitude and the negative impact it could have on Couche-Tard's (TSX:ATD.B) public image.

Arthur Dube, 82, said Bouchard should respect the right of shareholders to ask questions and respond rather than try to prevent someone from speaking

Earlier this year, the convenience store chain put a location in St-Liboire up for sale after workers obtained union accreditation.

Sylvie Joly, a representative for the Confederation of National Trade Unions who asked the questions, said Bouchard also rejected her request to meet to discuss the impasse. She also said an employee was barred from entering the meeting despite holding a shareholder proxy.

Joly said Bouchard's actions at the meeting make her doubtful that the strong unionization of recently acquired Statoil Fuel & Retail will prompt any change in Couche-Tard's anti-union stripes.

Bouchard later told reporters that Joly and several sympathizers who spoke should have simply asked questions instead of trying use the meeting to make editorial statements.

Chief financial officer Raymond Pare added the annual meeting wasn't the suitable place for those questions that affected just a few stores in Quebec.

"It's not necessarily the appropriate place to do this," he said after reporters were warned not to ask any questions about unionization. "It's a subject that affects seven of our 12,000 stores."

Meanwhile, the company said it continues to look for acquisition opportunities in Canada, the United States and Europe. …

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