With Sears Canada in court today applying to scrap its pension, Ontario’s New Democrats are calling on the Wynne Liberals to finally take action protect Ontario workers and pensioners during bankruptcy proceedings.
“The Sears pensioners are getting the rug pulled out from under them and Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government is looking the other way,” said Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “Liberal and Conservative governments in Ontario have ignored and mistreated workers and pensioners so investors, creditors and bankscould pocket even more money.”
In 2016, Jennifer French, then NDP Pensions critic, introduced a motion in the legislature calling on the government to amend bankruptcy legislation so that “benefits owed to pensioners [would] be given top priority in the event that a company files for bankruptcy.” The motion passed with government support. Currently, creditors like banks and big corporations get paid first, and people who worked for the company are pushed to the back of the line.
Since supporting the 2016 motion, Wynne has done nothing — letting down workers whose pensions are in jeopardy, like Sears Canada staff and former staff, and Stelco employees in Hamilton.
Today, Sears Canada is filing a petition to terminate its vastly underfunded pension plan, leaving thousands at risk of losing their pensions. Earlier this year, Sears Canada filed for creditor protection and began the process of closing stores and liquidating assets. So far 59 locations have been closed and nearly 3,000 jobs have been lost.
“Last year, Wynne and her Liberals supported my motion to protect pensioners by prioritizing them during bankruptcy proceedings. Now she saying ‘there isn’t a role for government’,” said French. “Hardworking Ontarians deserve to know why the premier thinks pensioners should be left to fend for themselves after spending their whole working lives earning those pensions.”
“No worker in Ontario should be forced to wonder whether their pension will be there when they retire. Executives, big corporations and foreign creditors can wait – Ontario workers should get every penny of what is owed to them,” said Horwath.