Global accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP has become the latest member of the financial services industry to reduce its Canadian work force – though many recently terminated PwC employees are unwilling to go quietly.
Dozens have reached out to employment law firm Samfiru Tumarkin LLP in recent weeks claiming they were fired without adequate severance. The layoffs, which have not been announced publicly, have affected several teams and business units across Canada, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources because they were not permitted to discuss the matter publicly.
PwC Canada spokesperson Anuja Kale-Agarwal confirmed via e-mail that “some limited job reductions” have been made, representing less than 2 per cent of the company’s Canadian work force. PwC has more than 7,700 Canadian employees in 19 offices across the country, with 2 per cent representing roughly 150 people.
“These decisions are very difficult and are never taken lightly,” Ms. Kale-Agarwal said. “The impacted individuals were treated fairly.”
About two dozen former PwC employees have contacted the Samfiru Tumarkin intake team in recent weeks, the firm said. Several others reached out directly to its lawyers.
“They have been told it is a restructuring and they have been offered not-fantastic packages,” Samfiru Tumarkin employment lawyer Fiona Martyn said in an interview. “They are not insultingly low offers, but they are also not incredibly reasonable or incredibly fair, especially when looking at some of the factors that the courts will look at.”
According to one termination e-mail obtained by The Globe, PwC offered employees whose “services are no longer required” one week of pay per year of service, with benefits to be terminated one week from the date of dismissal. The e-mail also said the severance offer “includes all of our obligations to you, whether statutory, contractual, at common law, or otherwise.”
The offers appear to meet the “bare minimum” set in the Employment Standards Act, Ms. Martyn said, “but they are also not in line with common law.”
“That is what applies in cases where employees didn’t sign enforceable contracts or they didn’t sign a contract at all, and my understanding with the PwC situation is that has been the case where people did not sign off on enforceable termination clauses and so they are entitled to what is known as common law reasonable notice.”
One major factor courts consider when evaluating whether a severance package is reasonable is how long it will take the terminated employee to find comparable new employment, Ms. Martyn said.
“I think these packages underestimate, especially given these terminations are taking place close to the holidays, how long it will take for someone to find a comparable new job,” she said. “There is certainly some room for movement here.”
PwC layoffs have cost almost 1,000 people their jobs globally over the past month, with roughly 600 let go from its British practice and another 338 positions eliminated in Australia.
The layoffs are part of a broader trend in Canada and around the world, with the financial industry beset by continuing economic uncertainty and increasing regulatory scrutiny. Canada’s largest banks have been quietly shedding jobs since early summer, and the pace of cuts has recently started to accelerate.
Last month, Bank of Nova Scotia said it would be cutting roughly 3 per cent of its global work force – more than 2,700 of some 91,000 employees. Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Montreal also recently announced plans to reduce the number of employees by 2 to 3 per cent.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to PwC as a financial institution. This version has been updated.