WATCH: Esso convenience store owners say they’re being forced out without any compensation for the businesses they’ve spent decades building. April Lawrence reports.
Melinda Waitzner has been helping customers at her convenience store in the Esso gas station on Craigflower Road for 15 years.
While she owns the business, she leases the space from Imperial Oil.
And now Waitzner has been told her contract will end in October.
Imperial Oil is selling off all of its 497 Esso-brand gas stations for $2.8 billion.
The stores in B.C. and Alberta, including nine in Greater Victoria, have been bought by 7-Eleven Canada.
“They’ve been callous the way they’ve done it, they’ve given us our termination notices and not even a thank you,” said Waitzner.
“We’ve always been top performers here in B.C. and Alberta that’s probably why they got top dollar for selling the Esso businesses because we all worked very hard,” said Waitzner.
But for owners like Waitzner and Tom Martin, who has owned his Hillside location for 37 years, that hard work isn’t going to pay off.
“We were told we could apply for a job with 7-Eleven afterwards,” said Martin. “It’s not too good, half of what I make now or less,” he said.
For Waitzner, the loss is even greater because her husband also owns a local Esso convenience store.
“We’re at a point in our lives where we have to say okay we have to start over again, something new, a new career, so it’s very scary,” she said.
Because they’re small business owners, they don’t qualify for employment insurance.
But for Martin, it’s about more than just a financial hit.
He says because of a 7-Eleven policy, he can no longer work with his family.
“So I can’t have my granddaughter who’s going to graduate and come and work for grandpa anymore, it’s not going to happen,” he said.
7-Eleven says it is hoping to retain most of the gas station employees and will offer them even better compensation packages.
Imperial Oil issued a statement saying “we continue to uphold our contractual obligations to retailers in our Esso branded network. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further as the terms of our agreements with both individual retailers and with 7-Eleven Canada are proprietary and confidential.”
The Victoria small business owners are still hoping the Corporation will sit down with them, if not to offer any compensation for the loss of the businesses they built, at least to say thank you.