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Zellers Workers Warned

May 31, 2011

Zellers workers should be wary of the looming move to make them Target employees, warns the president of the London and District Labour Council.

The giant U.S. retailer, which bought Zellers and its more than 200 stores in a $1.8-billion deal, has a record of not treating its workers as well as Hudson's Bay, owner of the Zellers chain, said president Patti Dalton.

"In some ways they are worse than Wal-Mart. Their benefits are more restrictive and their labour practices have been widely criticized," she said.

"Those of us in labour will be watching them closely. They are an anti-union company."

United Food and Commercial Workers spokesperson Pat Purcell agreed, saying the chain pays between $9 and $9.50 an hour, and most employees don't work more than 10 hours a week so they're not eligible for benefits.

"Target is no better than Wal-Mart," Purcell said of the world's No. 1 retail giant that's repeatedly thwarted union drives.

"(Target) has abused its staff for too long because unions were too busy monitoring Wal-Mart."

Canadian unions and retail experts say Target did an end run around unions when it acquired 220 Zellers stores in January. Target's offer does not include 59 Zellers stores that were unionized or unprofitable.

Zellers outlets will also lay off all of their staff before renovations. The move has drawn the ire of the UFCW union, which has 1,500 members at 15 Zellers stores in B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

"(Target) couldn't have paid $1.8 billion to buy empty buildings," said union president Tony Filato.

Workers at the London stores have been told they'll have to re-apply for their jobs and don't know what the future will hold, said one worker at the Masonville Zellers, which, along with the Zellers at Westmount Shopping Centre, will become Target stores.

"We have not been told anything. . . . Everyone is concerned they will close the stores for months to renovate and we do not know what will happen after that," she said, "But mostly people are upbeat. They think (Target) is a beautiful store and we hope it's a nice place to work. This is Ontario, our labour laws are different, we may not go through what is happening in the U.S."

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