Target Canada workers frustrated by inflexible schedules during retailer’s final days

Target Canada’s final days are proving tough on some workers. As liquidation sales ramp up, store employees are complaining of inflexible and often erratic work schedules that affect their private lives and job searches.

Company's initial promise of 'work/life balance' proving very elusive

Target Canada workers complain of inflexible and erratic schedules during Target Canada's final days. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Target Canada’s final days are proving tough for some of its workers, and it is not just because the unemployment line beckons.

As liquidation sales ramp up, store employees are complaining of inflexible and often erratic work schedules that are affecting their private lives and the ability to hunt for new jobs.

One worker told CBC News that when she was hired by the retailer, the company preached a "work/life balance" and was willing to adapt itself to employees' scheduling needs.

But now that Target Canada is closing down, it appears not so accommodating.

A March 2 Target Canada memo obtained by CBC News declared that due to the large number of requests, employees can no longer ask for different work schedules due to changes in their availability.

A Feb. 10 staff memo had previously told employees that changes could be made if they didn't impact an employee's work hours or the business. But the new edict declared that deal no longer stands. 

The memo also stated, "If adjustments were previously made/approved to accommodate a new job, they will no longer be honoured.” The only exceptions would be “unique or special circumstances."

'If you're trying to find another job, to set up interviews, it's a nightmare- anonymous Target worker

"It's making it really hard for those who did go get second jobs to be set up for success after the store closes," says Jennifer, a storefront worker at an Ontario Target.

Jennifer is not her real name. She asked for that to be withheld because Target has told her not to talk to the media.

A memo to workers on Jan. 20 warned them of the risks of speaking to the press, suggesting it could lead to "inaccurate information being shared … and information being provided without proper context."

Scheduling chaos

A Target Canada store manager says he always tried to accommodate his employees’ requests, but that now schedules are controlled by higher-ups who are "incredibly inflexible."

This man, who also doesn't want his name used, says work schedules are now "all over the place" and are handed out on short notice.

"The reason they took away the two-week schedule is because we couldn't plan" for it. He adds that work hours are now posted one week in advance but then still subject to change.

"I've been through four or five revisions in the last week and a half for my personal schedule," says the manager.

For her part, Jennifer complains her work schedule is out of control. "I work mornings, I work nights, I work afternoons, I'm everywhere and when it's brought to anyone's attention that I can't work nights, [I’m told], 'Sorry, figure it out.'"

A single parent, she says, "there's nothing we can do," adding "if you're trying to find another job, to set up interviews, it's a nightmare."

Workers walk

In January, U.S.-based Target announced it was closing its 133 Canadian stores and would soon lay off its roughly 17,600 workers.

A Jan. 27 company email to managers noted that, "Stores have experienced a spike in unjustified absences." It also stated that employees who miss three days of work with no excuse will be terminated.

For Target, the problem has been that there is still a lot of work to be done in the stores, work that includes unloading large amounts of shipped merchandise at certain locations and changing signs every time liquidation prices drop.

The store manager CBC News spoke with admits that unpredictable schedules are tough on staff, but he feels it's the only way the company can get through the demands of liquidation. 

The law firm representing Target Canada employees received so many complaints about scheduling concerns, it posted a notice on its website.

Koskie Minsky LLP informed workers they had to resolve their beefs with the company because these are not legal matters.

Target told CBC News that it could not discuss scheduling conflicts. "We typically don’t share details about our compensation, scheduling or other human resources matters," said spokeswoman Molly Snyder.

The lucky ones

Not every worker is complaining about the changing schedules. Most employees whose hours have been cut during the wind-down are still getting paid for the full hours they had traditionally worked.

A storefront employee who also doesn’t want her name used says she’s now only needed one day a week at her Ontario Target store. But, she’s still being paid for her traditional 31.5 hour work week. 

"I kind of love that, I’m not going to lie. You know how much stuff I’ve got done around my house?" she says.

Target Canada is not providing severance because the company is now insolvent. But it has committed to keep paying employees their regular working hours, no matter what they are scheduled, until the business officially closes in mid-May.

A number of workers, however, are still having to put in full-time hours.

Jennifer is not working all her regular hours, but she says she still finds it hard to grapple with an erratic schedule and a depressing atmosphere at work.

"I was very happy to get this job. Oh my gosh, I was dancing. I was so excited to work for this company."

Now, she says, "I'll be very happy when this is said and done."