Nfld. & Labrador

'Betrayed by Sears': Laid-off worker feels abandoned after 27 years

Gail Paul was a commission salesperson at the Sears store in Corner Brook, until it closed Oct. 1, leaving the future of her severance and pension up in the air.

Gail Paul worries about retirement, with pension and severance up in the air

Gail Paul was the longest-serving employee at Sears in Corner Brook when she shut the doors for the final time on Oct. 1. (Submitted by Gail Paul)

A long-time Sears employee says she feels let down by the company to which she's dedicated more than half her life.

Gail Paul worked at Sears in Corner Brook for 27 years and thought she would retire with a full pension in 2019.

"I feel very betrayed by Sears actually after being committed to them for that long. I really didn't expect them to just lay us off, shut the stores and nothing else, just forget that we were even part of the company."

190 jobs gone in N.L.

Sears Canada went into creditor protection in June 2017, with plans to close 59 stores across the country, including the one in Corner Brook.

The list grew to include St. John's and 10 other stores.

About 190 employees in Newfoundland and Labrador are losing their jobs because of the Sears closures. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

On Tuesday, after a potential buyer fell through, Sears indicated it will seek court approval to sell off all remaining assets, a move that will eliminate 190 jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador.

When the Corner Brook store shut down Oct. 1, it marked the end of an era for workers like Gail Paul.

"That was my life. I've been there over half my life and I was a committed salesperson so I didn't ever think about having to look for another job. I thought my retirement was set with Sears."

Pension predicament

Instead, Paul faces the future with uncertainty, because her pension benefits are not guaranteed as the creditor protection process unfolds at the national level.

"We're really not sure what's happening to our pension, if we're going to get it, if we're not going to get it, or if we're only going to get a portion of it."

Gail Paul says she thought her retirement income was secure through her pension plan at Sears Canada. (Bernice Hillier/CBC)

Paul said any reduction in pension benefits will mean a change in the retirement lifestyle she and her husband had hoped for.

"I probably wouldn't be able to do the things that I thought about doing when I did retire, if we wanted to travel more or whatever."

That leaves Paul, 53, looking at all options, including going back to school. 

"At 27 years of being a commission sales associate, either I go back at that or I do a whole new training altogether."

I've been there over half my life ... I thought my retirement was set.- Gail Paul

Paul also left Sears without her anticipated severance payment of at least a week's pay for every year of service.

Instead, when she pulled the door shut at Sears in Corner Brook for the last time, she left without severance and with no definite answers about what lies ahead.

"It was a very sad day. You closed the doors, and you didn't know what you were going to do next."

No answers

Paul's health benefits will run out at the end of October, so she's looking for a medical plan elsewhere, knowing it will be harder to get than when she was younger.

She'd like to get answers to her many questions, sooner rather than later.

"We need them right away really and I think they should come up with severance for us, and our pension. Make sure our pension is accounted for and available to us all."


Bernice Hillier is a host of CBC Newfoundland Morning, which airs weekday mornings across western and central Newfoundland, as well as southern Labrador.