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Workers Demand Severance, Benefits in Bankruptcy of Canadian Icon Barrymore

TORONTO – Former employees of iconic Canadian manufacturer Barrymore Furniture, now in bankruptcy proceedings, will rally in Toronto’s financial district Thursday to demand severance and benefits payments they are owed.

     WHO:        Former employees of iconic Canadian brand Barrymore

     WHAT:      Demonstration to demand termination pay, severance and benefits

     WHERE:   150 York Street, Toronto

     WHEN:     Thursday, Feb. 6, 10 a.m.

“Once again, working people are victims of a rigged system that disregards their interests while giving priority to wealthy investors,” said Carolyn Egan, President of the Steelworkers Toronto Area Council, which represents the former Barrymore employees.

“It’s not bad enough that these workers lost their jobs overnight, they now have to fight a system that – by design – marginalizes them and leaves them at the bottom of the list when it comes to monies they are owed,” Egan said.

Barrymore, which produced custom, hand-made furniture in Toronto for more than a century, shut down its manufacturing operations on Jan. 17, 2020, after filing a Notice of Intention (NOI) last November. The company filed an assignment in bankruptcy on Jan. 17. The first meeting of creditors will be held on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 10 a.m. in the offices of an insolvency trustee in Toronto’s financial district.

Canada’s laws relegate workers to the back of the line as “unsecured creditors” in bankruptcy and insolvency cases, while “secured creditors” such as banks and wealthy investors get priority access to available assets. Such is the case in the Barrymore bankruptcy, with millions of dollars in claims from secured creditors, while workers are relegated to unsecured creditor status.

Barrymore employees were shocked when they received one day’s notice that their jobs would be disappearing and learned they would not receive termination, severance and benefits payments they were owed, said Roopchand Doon, chair of the United Steelworkers (USW) unit at the company.

The employees, many of whom had decades of service with Barrymore, had agreed last year to forego shifts and take pay cuts as part of a work-share program aimed at helping the company through a difficult period, Doon noted.

“It was very shocking and upsetting to us, to be treated like that. To have been loyal employees for so long and then to be told that your job will be gone tomorrow and you’re losing everything, it’s incredibly hurtful.”

Most of the workers are owed tens of thousands of dollars, some close to $50,000, he added.

The USW and the Canadian labour movement have been demanding reforms to Canada’s bankruptcy and insolvency laws for several years to give greater priority to workers and pensioners.

Two bills proposing such reforms were presented in the previous session of Parliament, but neither was supported by the Liberal government.

“Enough is enough. The time has come for the federal government and all MPs to finally pass new legislation that protects workers’ wages, pensions and benefits,” said Marty Warren, USW Director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

“Working families and retirees should not have to live with the constant insecurity of knowing they can lose so much, overnight,” Warren said.

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For further information:

Marty Warren, USW Director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada, 416-243-8792
Thomas De Sousa, USW Staff Representative, 416-997-9492, tdesousa@usw.ca
Carolyn Egan, President, Steelworkers Toronto Area Council, 416-806-7985, c.egan@sympatico.ca
Roopchand Doon, USW Local 8300 unit chair, 416-258-4967, roop_3ri@hotmail.com
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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