TORONTO — Former Goodwill employees gathered Wednesday at the organization’s Scarborough headquarters to talk about what is next in their lives after the 80-year-old charitable institution closed its doors on Monday.
Sixteen stores and 10 drop-off centres in Toronto, central, eastern and northern Ontario were locked after CEO Keiko Nakamura announced Goodwill was in a financial crisis, losing over a million dollars a year.
“I’m pissed, these guys are — some of them are not going to eat. I’ve got a woman here today, she’s here, she’s not going to talk to you because she’s embarrassed,” said James Nickle, a truck driver and chief union steward at Goodwill.
“She’s not going to be able to feed her family tonight. Now, we’re going to take a donation tonight to help her, but how long is that going to last? A day? Maybe two? What about her rent? They’re owed their money, they’re owed their severance package, if nothing else they’re owed their job back.”
Nickle said Nakamura’s comments to the media that donations were down were misleading, as the volume of donations are consistent but sales drop in winter months.
“There’s no need for this to happen, Goodwill makes money thanks to the public’s donations and support. The company makes money, I know, I see it everyday. I see the donations from Orillia, Brockville, Barrie, all over the Greater Toronto Area,” said Nickle.
“So, her getting on TV and saying, ‘Well, donations are low,’ that’s a pile of crap. I can’t put it any more plainer than that. The sales are down a little bit because it’s cold out, there’s not as many people on the street shopping. So we know that, but the donations still have to be sorted, the work still has to be done.”
Canadian Airport Workers Union Representative Moe Rutherford said the news has hit local Goodwill workers hard.
“Our members have gone through a roller-coaster of emotions, from shock to disbelief, confusion and now anger,” he said.
“The communication of uncertainty does not sit well. Our members live from paycheque to paycheque and without fair warning were shut out.”
Rutherford added that a main concern for Goodwill employees is whether or not they will be paid on Friday.
“It’s still uncertain if our members will be paid for their services up to and including last Saturday. It’s also uncertain if they would be able to apply for unemployment insurance,” he said.
“The majority of our members earn barely above minimum wage, our members benefit from paycheques but mostly benefit from helping others so that others in turn can help themselves.”
Nakamura said in a release late Wednesday that “despite our best efforts” the employees would not be paid, but added the organization would provide an update on the date of payroll deposits and the issuance of records of employments Monday.
Nakamura’s annual salary is over $200,000 a year and the organization receives more than $4 million a year in government assistance.
It’s still unclear if severance will be paid out to the 430 unionized employees who lost their jobs earlier this week.
The Goodwill store closures are isolated and do not affect Goodwill operations in other regions.
With files from Tom Hayes
© 2016 Shaw Media