NDP demands law change so employees, pensioners get paid first

The Ontario NDP is demanding legal changes so that when a company is entering bankruptcy, current and former employees are the first in line to get paid the pensions they’re owed – not last.

Echoing several other troubling examples in recent years, employees who have lost their jobs as a result of Sears Canada locations closing have found themselves without severance packages, and with their pensions in jeopardy. Meanwhile, current laws allow Sears to pay out its other debts, first. This week, Sears Canada is seeking the court’s permission to suspend some of its pension obligations.

“Workers have spent years paying into their pension plans, and deferring wages they’ve earned by directing them into their pension rather than onto their paycheque,” said NDP Employment critic Catherine Fife. “It’s just plain wrong that the system allows corporations to walk away from what they owe to current and former employees, even while other creditors get paid.

“The NDP wants that to change before anyone else finds themselves at the back of the line, unlikely to ever see what they’re owed and wondering how they’re going to get by.”

In May 2016, the NDP tabled a motion calling on Kathleen Wynne to push the federal government to amend the laws and force companies to pay out pensioners first when they liquidate their assets. Wynne and her government agreed – then failed to take any action.

“We have seen this story too many times in recent years because of a government that just doesn’t take it seriously when people’s livelihoods are impacted. Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal government have too often protected corporate profits at the expense of pensioners,” said Paul Miller, the NDP’s Pensions critic.

“The NDP knows whose side we’re on: large corporations and foreign creditors can wait – Ontario workers should get every penny of what is owed to them.”

Fife said that with the story of pensions in peril being repeated again and again throughout the province, changes can’t wait.

“Ontarians shouldn’t have to wait until after the election for Andrea Horwath and the NDP to fix this law. We demand that Wynne push the federal government for a fix now – before any more pensioners lose a part of their life’s savings.”