PRO­TECT WORK­ERS, PEN­SIONS

Bank­ruptcy laws fall short, says MP

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS THOMP­SON chthomp­son@post­media.com

Pen­sions in Canada need bet­ter pro­tec­tion when com­pa­nies go bank­rupt, a town hall meet­ing heard Tues­day night.

About 200 peo­ple packed a room at the Cio­ciaro Club to dis­cuss the is­sue at a meet­ing or­ga­nized by lo­cal NDP MPs Tracey Ram­sey (Es­sex), Brian Masse (Wind­sor West) and Ch­eryl Hard­cas­tle (Wind­sor-Te­cum­seh).

The main speaker at the meet­ing was Hamil­ton Moun­tain NDP MP Scott Du­vall, who has in­tro­duced a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill, Bill C-384, which would change how cred­i­tors are ranked un­der the Bank­ruptcy and In­sol­vency Act.

“What I’m ask­ing them to do is to pro­tect work­ers’ pen­sions, the work­ers and the pen­sion­ers, via the Bank­ruptcy Act, so that they don’t lose any more money as they have been do­ing for the last sev­eral years,” said Du­vall.

“The com­pa­nies are tak­ing too much ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion, the law, and they do it be­cause the law al­lows them to do it. And there’s no pro­tec­tion there for the work­ers.”

Larry New­man, 68, spent most of his work­ing life at Sears, and is now fear­ful about his fu­ture as the com­pany goes through the liq­ui­da­tion process.

“My con­cern is, first of all, on the 30th of Septem­ber I lost all of my health ben­e­fits, my paid-up in­sur­ance pol­icy and what other ben­e­fits there were, and now I’m con­cerned about los­ing my pen­sion,” said New­man, who worked from 1972 to 1979 and 1980 to 2009 as an on-the-road sales­man for Sears cus­tom draperies and car­pet­ing.

New­man lays much of the blame for the demise of Sears Canada at the feet of U.S. cor­po­rate CEO Ed Lam­pert.

“He sold the credit depart­ment for $2.5 bil­lion, he didn’t rein­vest the money, and at about the same time he can­celled profit-shar­ing to all the older em­ploy­ees be­cause his rea­son­ing was that all the em­ploy­ees were part time and they didn’t want to get into profit-shar­ing, so he stopped it,” said New­man.

Du­vall said the Sears sit­u­a­tion is just the most re­cent sit­u­a­tion where pen­sion­ers are be­ing de­prived of the con­tri­bu­tions they have made over the years, but be­cause Sears has a na­tional foot­print, the is­sue is gain­ing at­ten­tion from coast to coast.

“They (pen­sion­ers) are what they call a non-se­cured cred­i­tor, and my bill would ac­tu­ally make them a se­cured cred­i­tor, which would mean they would ac­tu­ally have to pay up de­fi­cien­cies and any kind of li­a­bil­i­ties to the fund. Be­fore they start spend­ing a lot of the mon­eys on other peo­ple,” said Du­vall.

“It would bump them up and the rea­son for that is this is de­ferred wages. This is money we have been pay­ing into, the work­ers have, we are say­ing to them you can­not take this away from us any­more. This is not your money.”

Du­vall said he has been trav­el­ling across the coun­try and get­ting a great deal of sup­port for the bill, in­clud­ing from MPs of all po­lit­i­cal stripes.

Du­vall said the only way to de­scribe the ac­tions of Sears is “ruth­less.”

“They were pay­ing out mil­lions and mil­lions and mil­lions of dol­lars in div­i­dends, when they were not mak­ing a profit,” said Du­vall.

“Know­ing that they had a pen­sion deficit. And then they go and claim bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion, which gives no pro­tec­tion to the work­ers, no sev­er­ance pay, no ter­mi­na­tion pay, so ba­si­cally they’re un­der­funded and now they are go­ing to liq­ui­date, and what­ever is re­main­ing in there, is there enough to fund that pen­sion? I don’t know.”

JA­SON KRYK

Re­tirees at­tend a town hall meet­ing at the Cio­ciaro Club on Tues­day to dis­cuss pen­sion pro­tec­tion with lo­cal NDP MPs Tracey Ram­sey (Es­sex), Ch­eryl Hard­cas­tle (Wind­sor-Te­cum­seh) and Brian Masse (Wind­sor West).

Larry New­man

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