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'It's our blood:' Retired Sears employee laments closure, pension issues

Last Updated Oct 15, 2017 at 11:31 am PST

(John Ackermann, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

Some feel the company made a series of bad business decisions

Liquidation sales expected to begin on Thursday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A former Lower Mainland Sears employee says it’s sad, but not surprising to see the retail giant close up shop, but now he’s slightly worried about his pension, and those who are still too young to retire but have to start over.

John (last name withheld) and his wife now have a lot of questions about their pensions. He worked nearly every job at Sears over his 44-year career.

He retired in July, just after the company filed for bankruptcy, but his wife still works retail in Metrotown in Burnaby.

John says employees have long watched the company make one poor business decision after another so its demise doesn’t come as a shock and he took precautions to make sure he could afford retirement.

“The real younger ones, who have only put in a couple of years — they don’t care. ‘It’s just another job. I just go to another job.’ It’s the ones that are in between and let’s say in the age group of 40 and 50 — can they get another job? Will they want to hire them as managers? You know, what’s happening, right?”

He adds part of their pensions are still in the air, and they haven’t heard much from the company, adding their pensions have some irregularities and Sears is preventing them from taking out the full amount for now.

“It’s a crucial age in your longevity as a person — [at] 50 — I don’t want to be called old yet, and yet can you find a job?”

Due to the company’s ongoing insolvency process, employees can only access 81 per cent of the value of their defined-benefit pension plans. Sears says the remaining 19 per cent will be paid out in the next five years, but that depends what the company does with the money.

The national retailer received approval from an Ontario judge last week to close its remaining 130 stores across the country, including six in the Lower Mainland.

Sears Canada is set to proceed with its proposal, putting another 12,000 employees out of work. Back in June Sears closed 59 stores and laid off 2,900 employees after seeking protection from its creditors. Sears Canada had as many as 17,000 employees in June.

Liquidation sales are expected to begin on Thursday and last until late December or early January. The company says people will be allowed to redeem their gift cards.

Meantime, the federal NDP is urging the Speaker of the House of Commons to allow an emergency debate on the fate of current and former employees of Sears Canada on Monday. New Democrat MP Scott Duvall says a debate is needed to give the Commons the chance to address the court ordered liquidation of Sears.