[7/9/17] Sue Earl is still reeling from news that Sears has cut off her severance payments. She says she stands to lose upwards of $20,000.
“I feel robbed,” says Earl, who did everything from work in the children’s department to handle catalogue orders during her 38-year career at Sears.
“It’s another slap in the face,” adds the 64-year-old. “Especially when they reach out after you’ve left and snatch that money back from you.”
Earl was laid off when the Sears store where she worked, in Cobourg, Ont., shut down in March — three months before the department store chain announced it would close 59 stores and lay off 2,900 staff as part of a court-supervised restructuring process. When those workers lose their jobs, they won’t receive severance.
On the day it filed for bankruptcy protection, Sears also informed previously laid-off workers like Earl it was axing their severance payments.
“We’re mad as hell,” says Earl, who has kept in touch with fellow ex-employees. “We’ve supported Sears with positive attitudes, and this is how we’re treated.”
Pensions in peril
Earl also fears losing thousands of dollars from her pension as part of the restructuring process. “I just feel helpless,” she says.
Sears has a court hearing next week where the company will request permission to halt both its retiree benefit payments along with special payments it has made for some time to top up the underfunded pension fund.
Many of Sears’ 16,000 retirees fear if the company is allowed to stop making pension contribtions, they will receive reduced pensions. They also don’t like the idea of losing their medical, dental and life insurance benefits.
“We don’t have any rights under this court protection,” says Joseph Moczulski, who worked for Sears as a long-haul truck driver for more than 35 years before retiring in 2004.
“It will be a hardship,” says the St. Thomas, Ont. resident of the possibility of losing his medical benefits. Both Moczulski and his wife are diabetics.
“We were promised that from the company,” says the 73-year-old. “They don’t care about the years we put in.”
Employees at back of line
Sears Canada told CBC News that deep financial troubles left the iconic retailer with no choice but to seek court protection from its creditors while it restructures. As part of the court proceedings, Sears said it’s not able to make payments to a number of stakeholders, including laid-off employees owed severance.