More Blatant Disregard for Workers

Members of Poverty Makes Us Sick are involved with the Tri-Cities Zellers Employee Solidarity Coalition (TCZESC). Please link to the TCZESC by clicking here.

In Kitchener/Waterloo, on Wednesday June 6th, two Zellers Stores closed forever.  The Stanley Park Mall and Bridgeport Plaza locations will reopen as Wal-mart.  None of the front line workers have been offered jobs*, or offered any preference for re-hire, by Wal-mart.  The employees are welcome to apply like anyone else.  We hope that their skills and experience will be valued.

We offer our love and support to all those who have lost their jobs.

Zellers is owned by HBC. Tiffany Bourre, HBC’s external communications manager says that “an average [Zellers] location has 100 employees…”. A few Zellers employees from these two locations have received transfers to other Zellers locations, but this is rare and most folks are losing their jobs.  According to Bourre’s statement, up to 500 people from our community may lose their jobs if Target decides to claim its contractual option on all five Zellers stores in the Tri-Cities.  In addition to the two stores that closed today, two others are scheduled to close in 2013. There is no official word on the 5th store yet.

Unemployment is devastating even in a healthy job market, but during this time of high unemployment, recession and cuts to vital social services, the loss of these jobs will prove especially challenging.

Tiffany Bourre also says that the employees affected will be offered what she termed “career transition and support services”. Bourré said, an online program will offer tips on resume writing, interview skills and professional development.  We call this bullshit.  We are happy if these resources helped folks right resumes (God knows we forget how!), but it’s insulting to the workers that this fluff is even named as support.  It’s insulting to us all that corporations think that they fool us so easily and find us so docile!

PMUS has typically acted locally with a focus on provincial policies affecting poverty.  While we have always maintained an analysis that is globally-minded, we are now expanding our work to include the necessary fights at the federal level, such as the detrimental changes being proposed to the Employment Insurance (EI) system and the despicable workfare initiatives aimed at indigenous people living on reserve.

Not all Zellers employees are even eligible for EI.  Some of the laid off employees will likely require access to Ontario Works (OW). As PMUS and its allies have been arguing for years, the inhumanely low, sub-poverty rates paid out by OW are not enough to buy healthy food, pay hydro and afford rent or mortgage.  No one should have to survive on these inadequate rates.

The TCZESC hopes to see employment maintained for those workers who seek it and seeks to foster worker-led mobilization.

Jobs and respect for those who have worked hard for Zellers and our community!

Visit the TCZESC blog at zellersemployeesolidaritycoalitiontricities.wordpress.com, email tczesc@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/events/373156966066951/ for more information.

*Originally the available information suggested that no employees would be maintaining employment with Walmart or Target without re-applying, but we have seen evidence in the conduct of some, at one of the locations, to suggest that they may have a greater sense of allegiance to Walmart than to their current employees.  That is, we were aggressively removed from the store by one Zellers employee on his second last day of work, because a really wealthy-looking guy in a fancy suit told him to throw us out as we were distributing invitations to an info night for laid-off employees. The guy who threw us out had some sort of middle management vibe. He acted aloof when asked if he was also losing his job.  He refused to answer. At the other location that was also closing we were treated well, like a human being ought to be treated.

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