A Chinese labor union and four former employees have filed suits against Walmart after an arbitration committee rejected their cases demanding better compensation following the closure of a store in central Hunan Province.
The Wuling District people's court in Changde City, where the Walmart store is located, accepted their suit on Wednesday.
A total of 69 workers had challenged the Changde Walmart store's offer of compensation or alternative employment.
A manager of the store announced on March 5 that the underperforming store would be closed on March 19. The workers were offered either to move to stores in other cities or end labor agreements and receive compensation.
The closest Walmart store to Changde is in Yiyang City, 100 kilometers away, which led most of the workers to reject the employment offer.
Some workers have claimed the store did not inform workers or the trade union 30 days in advance as required by law and did not have any communication with workers before announcing the closure.
The 69 workers and the store's branch of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions applied for arbitration by the Changde municipal labor dispute arbitration committee on April 25, asking to double the compensation.
They did not specify how much the compensation should be.
The committee issued its decision on June 25 turning down the workers' arbitration requests.
Since then, 63 workers have signed an agreement to accept a settlement from Walmart of 3,000 yuan (488 U.S. dollars) each in addition to the compensation package to end the dispute.
The remaining six workers were not satisfied with the arbitration and insisted on filing lawsuits.
"We don't feel respected in the whole process," said Huang Xingguo, head of the store's trade union.
"Even though they (other workers) accepted the settlement, they are forced by living pressures, not by their will," he said.
At present, the trade union of the store and four former employees have sued the Walmart store in separate lawsuits, and the five suits have been accepted by the Wuling District people's court, he said.
Another two workers did not file suits as they are currently not in Changde, he said.
They asked the court to verify the illegality of the store ending their labor agreements and order the store to pay twice the compensation, according to the indictment provided by Huang.
The Changde municipal branch of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions will offer legal assistance to the workers. Chang Kai, a professor from Renmin University of China, will offer legal assistance to the store's labor union.
Walmart closed the Changde store as part of plans to restructure in China. It said in October last year it planned to shut about nine percent of stores in China through 2016 while opening 110 new stores and distribution centers and creating 19,000 jobs in the country as part of efforts to revitalize its business.
Walmart currently has more than 400 stores and 7 distribution centers in 170 Chinese cities, according to its official website.