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Target closing puts UFV students out of work

Of the 133 closing Target stores across Canada, three are in the Lower Mainland, putting some UFV students out of work.

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By Megan Lambert (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: January 28, 2015

Target employees have 16 weeks left of pay and benefits. (Image: wikipedia.org)

Of the 133 closing Target stores across Canada, three are in the Lower Mainland, putting some UFV students out of work.

Having started up operations in Abbotsford two years ago, Target is  now beginning the liquidation process. Shipments from trucks are slowing down, products are moving from back rooms to clearance aisles, and in-store Starbucks cafés are leaving the locations.

CEO of Target Canada Brian Cornell suggested in the company’s January 15 press release that the main reasons for its departure were fiscal.

“We were unable to find a realistic scenario that would get Target Canada to profitability until at least 2021,” Cornell said.

Consequently, about 17,600 employees in Canada will be out of work. Target is ensuring pay and benefits for its employees over the next 16 weeks, even if they are laid off sooner than that. However, they stated they cannot guarantee severance.

Sam*, a UFV student who works as a human resources team leader at a Target location in the Fraser Valley, has been working part-time since July 2012 to help pay for her education and living costs.

She says her store was meeting daily sales goals and functioning smoothly, so the closure came as a shock.

“I thought if they were to start closing down, they would close down the stores that weren’t doing well from the get-go,” she says, adding that her location had received good ratings within the company for guest service and inventory. “So the complete withdrawal was a huge shock.”

Sam says her manager called a team meeting the morning of the announcement, having heard the news on the radio rather than from Target itself.

There are other accounts of employees first hearing the news of Target’s closing from the media. The CBC reports that a similar situation occurred in Ontario, where employees heard about Target’s closure from news outlets and customers, rather than from Target corporately. A Target spokesperson told CBC that they told workers “at about the same time” as they gave details to the media.

Sam and her coworkers received letters from Target with information about paycheques, benefits, and the liquidation process, but notes there was a lack of immediate communication. “It just seems immature,” she says.

“I’m sure there [were] many warning signs before this and they could have had a bigger and better, more secure plan [that] would have better communication for people in the store.”

As part-time retail jobs are a common source of income for many students, Target’s termination affects many UFV students like Sam. However, she explains that although she has concerns about maintaining her costs as a student, there are others who rely on their jobs to make a living.

“The first people I thought of were people with families to support,” she says.

She adds that because approximately 150 people from her store are also going back out into the job market, finding part-time work with flexible hours in her area will be more difficult compared to when she began job-hunting two years ago.

Despite this, Sam says the morale in her store is positive. Employees are arranging lunchtime games, taking pictures, and signing T-shirts from previous volunteering events. “I don’t think we’ve ever had such a positive vibe in our store. People have really come together,” she says.

As the product in her store dwindles, Sam says, “Every truck is one more week. That’s kind of how it feels.

“It’ll be a sad day when we see our last truck, that’s for sure.”

Name changed to protect anonymity of the source.

With files from Kier-Christer Junos.

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