Target targeted by rallying unionized Zellers workers
TARGET DO THE RIGHT THING!
TORONTO Zellers employees have begun receiving notice that they will be let go to make room for Target, triggering a call from the union representing them to rally in Windsor on Saturday.
“As the public learns more they’re becoming increasingly frustrated. People assume there are laws to protect workers in these situations. I think people are realizing there’s not,” said Wayne Hanley, national president of the United Food and Commercial Workers of Canada.
Target bought the leases to 189 Zellers locations from the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) for $1.8 billion last year and will convert up to 135 into Target stores, beginning with 24 in Ontario in the spring of 2013.
So far, 130 stores have received notice of closure, said Tiffany Bourré, external communications manager for HBC.
At approximately 100 employees per location, that’s 13,500 pink slips.
There are 15 unionized Zellers stores across Canada where long-serving employees are paid more than minimum wage and have a defined benefits pension plan, according to union officials.
Lisa Gibson, a spokesperson for Target, declined to say whether the retailer will be paying new hires anything more than the minimum wage. She referred questions about the future of Zellers employees to Hudson’s Bay Company.
Gibson said Target purchased the leases — not the stores — from Hudson’s Bay and is not obliged to hire the people working there now.
“It’s kind of like when you buy a house. You get the house, you get the land, you don’t get the people in it, so we didn’t get the fixtures or any of the merchandise or the technology, and it’s the same for the employees as well,” said Gibson.
Employees initially went to the union with their concerns, but have since become reluctant to speak out, according to UFCW spokesperson Derek Johnstone.
“You buy the company, there was people in the company — not animals — human beings in there. So, you should have taken the people that’s there,” Angela Rankine, a Zellers employee with 13 years of experience, told union leaders in a video posted to the protest website targetfairness.ca.
Reached on Friday, Rankine said she can no longer speak to the issue. She said Hudson’s Bay had her sign an agreement preventing her from speaking to the press about the situation.
Bourré said the company is not asking employees to sign nondisclosure agreements, but they are required to annually sign a code of conduct reminding them of store protocol when dealing with the media.
She said employees are being provided with career transition support, including resumé, networking and interview skills training.
Target sold 39 leases to Walmart.
Andrew Pelletier, vice-president of corporate affairs and sustainability at Walmart Canada, wrote in an email response to questions that the company has hired a wide range of Zellers employees, including management, non-management and pharmacy workers.
The “Ask Target for Fairness” rally starts at 11 a.m. at Devonshire Mall in Windsor.