Goodwill suddenly shutters 16 Toronto area stores amid employee protests

Workers at Goodwill in the Toronto area are furious after the abrupt closure of 16 stores, 10 donation centers and two offices this Sunday.

David Williams is an example of an employee who chose to work for Goodwill when he could have stayed on disability due to suffering from scoliosis since the age of 12. He could just have stayed home and watched TV as he put. Instead, he has worked at Goodwill for the last 19 years. Just as the 80-year old charity intended, it provided him with an identity and purpose. He said of his colleagues at Goodwill Scarborough: "We're a family."
Dozens of employees gathered at the Scarborough site demanding that the CEO of Goodwill Industries Toronto Keiko Nakamura resign. Closure of the stores left more than 430 workers without a job. Among them was Len Trumble, who after 26 years with Goodwill earns $13.90 an hour. Older workers such as Raymond Chalmers, who worked at Goodwill for 30 years, doesn't know how he will find another job at 66. Shane Clark, who worked at Goodwill for 16 years, could not understand why the stores were closing as there was plenty of stock left on the shelves. The apparent financial crisis that caused the shutdown came on without notice to the employees.
Nakumara announced by email:“Despite our best efforts, employees will not be paid on Friday as part of the regular pay cycle. However, Goodwill will be in a position to update all employees about the date of payroll deposits and the issuance of records of employments on Monday January 25, 2016."Not everyone will lose their job: Although the organization’s board has resigned, Nakamura — who was fired from her role as head of Toronto Community Housing after a spending scandal in 2011 — said Monday she would stay on as its head.In explaining why she stayed on Nakamura said: "I have a duty as the CEO for this organization to ensure I do the diligence in the best interest of this organization." Nakamura earns quite a bit more than the average Goodwill worker even though the workers are unionized:Nakamura’s annual salary is over $200,000 a year and the organization receives more than $4 million a year in government assistance.
Nakamura claims that the stores had to be closed because of a cash flow crisis. Trucker Shane Clarke wondered how there could be such as sudden cash flow crisis when their products were donated. Since the company has not officially closed down or declared bankruptcy, the workers have no idea about severance or termination pay and workers have received no record of employment, so they cannot claim unemployment insurance.
A lawyer for Goodwill workers' union, Dennis Ellickson, said that according to the contract with Goodwill, the company must give the workers 30 to 60 days notice before closing any stores. While the union had asked for "transparency" from the company, the company has not complied. Closed outlets are not just in Toronto itself but also Brampton, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, and Brockville. While not officially closed, Nakamura said the stores would remain shuttered "until further notice."
Sunday night, Goodwill employees' union representatives met with Nakamura to discuss the situation. She said the union was encouraged that the company would continue working with stakeholders and various levels of government to find a solution to the cash flow problems. The union itself was appealing to the government and stakeholders to help find a solution and get their workers back to work as soon as possible. The union said it had not advance notice of the closures. Artan Milaj, vice-president of the union said: "The 450 workers are now suddenly without jobs, which is devastating on its own. But Goodwill stores also help a lot of low-income people with community programming and affordable shopping. We need to get these stores open and our members back on the job."
Goodwill Industries operates 165 independent community-based organizations in Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, the US, Canada, and eight other countries. In 2014 it had $5.37 billion U.S. in revenues.


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