Sears closures years in the making, Ottawa employee says

The Sears closures are heartbreaking but unsurprising to an Ottawa employee of the chain.

323 jobs in Ottawa on the line if chain goes into liquidation

If an Ontario court approves Sears' request to liquidate the remaining stores, hundreds in Ottawa will lose their jobs.

The Sears closures are heartbreaking, but unsurprising to an Ottawa employee of the chain.

On Tuesday, Sears Canada announced plans to close all 130 stores, including three in the capital. If their court motion is approved, hundreds in the area will lose their jobs.

"It's so discouraging to see something you worked really hard for and put your heart and soul in, and then it's taken away from you really quickly by decisions that are out of your control," an Ottawa Sears employee said on Wednesday. 

CBC News has agreed to withhold her name, as Sears has asked employees to sign non-disclosure agreements. 

Decline slow, but steady

In an internal memo sent to Sears staff, workers were told some may lose their jobs as early as next week, while others could be employed for the next three months as the stores close down.

"I can't say that it was surprising because I've slowly seen the decline," she said, adding she became suspicious when her store stopped giving raises or promotions about five years ago.

"We're not too pleased with corporate, we haven't been for a while. We don't believe they're doing their jobs," the employee said.

The three remaining locations in Ottawa have 323 employees, most of whom are part-time.

  • The Carlingwood location has 133 employees, 103 of whom are part-time.
  • The St. Laurent location has 154 employees, 118 of whom are part-time.
  • The Pinecrest Sears Homestore has 36 employees, 10 of whom are part-time. 

The memo told employees they would lose their benefits as soon as they are terminated. Sears stores could begin liquidations as early as Oct. 19, if they are given court approval. 

The employees in Ottawa are just some of the 12,000 across Canada whose jobs are on the line.

Talks of the closure gained momentum in June when the chain entered court-approved creditor protection. 

'It's heartbreaking'

Customers were in a frenzy at the St. Laurent Shopping Centre location, buying up items they knew would be gone if Sears closed their doors. 

"When I worked there … Sears was one of the best places to work," Patricia Mullens said. She worked at the east end location for over 30 years, and said she feels horrible that a company that treated her so well could potentially cast off thousands.

Patricia Mullens worked for Sears in the St. Laurent mall for three decades and said she's shocked at how many jobs may be at stake. (Roger Dubois/CBC News)

While some bemoaned the ever-shortening list of retailers, other could only think of their friends and family members that could quickly become jobless. 

"It's heartbreaking and I hope other Canadian retailers will help pick them up and that Sears will spend whatever money is left helping their employees," Lynn Baltzer, a longtime customer, said.

The closing dates of the Ottawa stores have not been announced yet. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice is expected to hear the motion on Friday.