Kim Throop has worked for Sears in Cobourg, Ont. for 24 years, where she was a manager and employee in various departments. She said she loved her job and was saddened to learn of the store’s pending closure.
She was notified of the shutdown a year in advance and when the store eventually closed on March 25, she signed a severance agreement to receive bi-monthly payouts from the company.
Three months later, on June 22, she — and others — received a letter saying their severance payments were being stopped.
“We didn’t see this coming,” Throop said. “We couldn’t believe it, we were absolutely stunned — it was like a slap in the face.”
Throop said the severance package she signed off on was supposed to continue until the end of December 2017, adding the company still owes her $16,000 in payments. She said she fears she’ll never see the remaining money and wonders if she’ll be able to realize the retirement she has always dreamed of.
“At the age of 55, I guess I’ll have to look at a second career and possibly re-educate myself and move on,” she said. “‘Did I ever think this would happen at my age? I did not see it coming.”
A spokesperson for Sears Canada said the company has been struggling for the past 18 months before seeking creditor protection earlier this year.
Sears Canada declined to comment when contacted by Global News July 27 about Throop’s concerns.
Throop’s daughter Michelle McWalters has set up a petition on Change.Org to let Sears Canada know they want to see these severance payouts paid to these former employees before the company’s re-branding rolls out.
“I set this up because I’ve seen how upset and stunned my mom and the other employees were after all of this and how they have to start all over,” McWalters said.
“And if we can’t do anything else, then I thought why not set up this [petition] and draw some attention to it and see what comes of it.”
The petition posted last month initially received a lot of local reaction as some former employees and customers were sharing comments and stories. The site worked like an online support group, McWalters said.
The petition then jumped by 3,000 views almost overnight after the hashtag #BoycottSearsCanada began making its way on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
“I have people reaching out to me from across the country who are not only sharing their stories but asking for more information,” she said. “If nothing else we hope we can help put people into the position where they don’t have to go through this.”
McWalters said the severance cuts have hurt their entire family and she is worried about her mother.
“This is the first time in my life that I have ever worried extensively about my mom and her well being, and her mental health and her stability,” she said. “She’s been my rock my entire life and at 55 years old she’s supposed to be enjoying her life.”
McWalters said her mother and her colleagues are part of a legal motion that is now trying to stop senior managers and executives from collecting bonuses. She said the workers’ severance payments should come first.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.