The sudden bankruptcy of Williams Moving and Storage and closure of the Terrace operations on Kalum Lake Road has left its 17 employees scrambling to figure out what they will do next.
“Everybody is in limbo, everybody is in shock because most of us have been here for 25, 26 years,” said dispatcher and officer manager Glen Peterson who was helping shut down the offices on Jan. 22 and 23.
Williams announced Jan. 21 it would be filing under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and named Deliotte Restructuring to represent them as it attempts to free up any money it can by selling off its remaining assets.
The closure meant layoffs for the majority of the company’s 300 workers in B.C. and Alberta and according to UNIFOR Local 114 national representative Mark Cameron whose union represents 125 of the workers, these laid-off employees are in for a “rocky ride”.
The collapse of a family-owned company that survived for 86 years was a surprise, said Cameron. “Williams was the best,” he added.
Observers said the company never fully recovered from the recession which began in 2008.
Employee of 25 years Alex Aszody said that in actual fact the company had been struggling. Raises never happened, and pensions had been cut to make up for growing shortfalls, he said.
And now Aszody is owed $6,800 in vacation pay and wages that UNIFOR says he will only see about half of through a bankruptcy act settlement.
As of late last week, ex-employees like Peterson and Aszody – drivers, loaders, and officer workers – were still waiting to find out how much of their travel, vacation and severance they will receive.
Customers who have belongings stored at the Terrace facility were unclear last week what would happen to their stuff.
“Everything is a little bit up in the air right now because they are now planning to rent this building out and they may be able to keep their storage stuff here but cannot be sure,” said Peterson, adding that customers with items in the 30 or so wood containers have been calling in worried.
He said that on the first day of closure, a truck full of Sears merchandise was left in limbo.
“A lot of people are coming in wondering what’s going on. One of our ladies who is in storage came in and said ‘I heard last night that it closed down’ so nobody really contacted her as far as letting anybody know.”
For its part, Williams had a note on its website on Friday saying that storage facilities were still secure and had a contact number for those who wanted to move their items. It also said that storage clients would be contacted soon by the company and told when they can come collect their items.
“It’s been a whirlwind couple of days where I have been trying to figure out what I want to do now and also getting all of our personal items out of here,” Peterson said. “I am really disappointed with the way it was handled,” he said.
“It was all peaches and cream. I got a good feeling from that conference call,” he said of his regular Tuesday meeting the day before the notice came.
“They tell us on the Tuesday webinars that everything is doing well, it’s going up, it’s going up right. The next day we get an email in the morning saying everybody’s got to be on a conference call at 3 p.m.” That’s when they were informed the company couldn’t keep its finances afloat, he said.
The only exceptions to the closures are Cranbrook and Lethbridge branches which are a separate entity.