OPERATIONS

NRLB files complaint against Wal-Mart

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — The U.S. National Labor Relations Board has filed a formal complaint charging that Wal-Mart Stores violated labor laws in 14 states by taking action against striking and protesting workers.

The NLRB said the retailer illegally fired, disciplined or threatened more than 60 employees in 14 states for participating in legally protected activities to complain about wages and working conditions.

A complaint issued by the NLRB’s general counsel’s office said Wal-Mart representatives appeared on national news broadcasts and threatened to retaliate against workers if they went on strike. It also alleged they disciplined and fired workers for engaging in legally protected protest activity.

The complaint involves more than 60 employees, 19 of whom were allegedly fire as a result of their participation in the protests. Sixty-three Wal-Mart supervisors and one corporate officer are named in the board’s complaint.

"We believe that our actions were valid. We take our obligations very seriously. We look forward to sharing our side of the facts in these cases with a judge," said Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for chain in an Associated Press report.

Wal-Mart has until Jan. 28 to respond to the complaint. The case will then go before an administrative law judge. If Wal-Mart is found liable, it could be required to award workers back pay, reinstatement and reverse any disciplinary action. The retailer could also try to work out a settlement as the case goes forward.

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OPERATIONS

Sears Canada taps IBM for outsourcing; will lay off 1,345 associates

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Sears Canada Inc. has entered into an arrangement with IBM to have the supplier take over the work currently performed at three internal Sears customer contact centers. The outsourcing move will take place over the next nine months and affect 1,345 employees.

"The changes we are making to our Customer Contact Centres will allow us to streamline the support structure of our organization while enhancing the overall customer experience," said Doug Campbell, president and CEO, Sears Canada Inc. "Our partner will bring tools and technologies that will allow us to operate more effectively without the ongoing investment in and maintenance of legacy proprietary systems. This will provide our customers with the benefits of up-to-date technology and enable us to focus on our core retail business, the area where we believe we have the greatest opportunity to maximize the value of the company."

Additionally, 283 employees at Sears Canada’s logistics arm will be laid off effective immediately, the company said.

Sears Canada is 51%-owned by Sears Holdings Corp. "These types of decisions are not made without considerable thought and deliberation," said Campbell. "We are planning for the future of Sears Canada and taking steps now that will allow us to continue serving customers as a viable national retailer coast to coast in stores and through our Direct channel now and in the future."

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News

JCP plans to close 33 stores by May

BY CSA STAFF

As part of its turnaround efforts, J. C. Penney will close 33 underperforming stores across the country. The move, which will result in the elimination of about 2,000 positions, is expected to result in an annual cost savings of approximately $65 million, beginning in 2014.

Penney said it expects to incur estimated pre-tax charges of approximately $26 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013 and approximately $17 million in future periods. The retailer noted it is continuing with plans to open a new store location later this year at the Gateway II development in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"As we continue to progress toward long-term profitable growth, it is necessary to reexamine the financial performance of our store portfolio and adjust our national footprint accordingly," said Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III, CEO of Penney. "While it’s always difficult to make a business decision that impacts our valued customers and associates, this important step addresses a strategic priority to improve the profitability of our stores and position J.C. Penney for future success."

The remaining inventory in the affected stores will be sold over the next several months, with final closings expected to be complete by early May.

Penney has approximately 1,100 stores in the United States.

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