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While politicians play politics with Sears pensioners, the Supreme Court appears to be on their side



On Monday in Ottawa, a private member’s bill is expected to be tabled by NDP Hamilton Mountain MP Scott Duvall that will attempt to give corporate employees rock-solid protection for their pension benefits in the event their employer goes bankrupt. The bill, developed in the context of Sears Canada’s collapse with a $270-million pension fund shortfall, is good policy that is doomed to fail.

The bill will go nowhere, but that doesn’t mean Sears pensioners will not get what they are entitled to: full pension coverage. The Supreme Court appears to be on their side.

Duvall’s effort will fail because the dominant Liberal/Conservative power duopoly will continue to waffle and fuddle through a policy change that should be a popular slam-dunk. As Duvall put it, Ottawa should fix bankruptcy laws that favour “big fat corporations and CEOs.”

Classic NDP rhetoric, but on this Duvall, union leaders and retiree advocates are right in principle. As Sears Canada clearly demonstrates, the pension benefits owed to employees of corporations represent savings and wages earned by employees. The value of those benefits should rank above the claims of all other creditors, which means pension plans are entitled to “super priority” over the claims of all other creditors and should get first crack at the assets of a bankrupt company.

The idea of giving pensioners super priority has been killed by a succession of Liberal and Conservative government over decades, all of them claiming that doing so would upset the delicate balance that protects banks and other creditors — including suppliers and their workers — who provide companies with vital credit, products and services that keep corporate Canada alive.

If we give pensioners savings and wages priority, the politicians say, companies will have less credit available to survive and grow. That’s the theory, described by one lawyer as  “the Doomsday argument” that gets recycled every time a new corporate pension crisis develops.

With Sears heading for bankruptcy, the politicians were at it again. Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and his parliamentary secretary said the subject is complicated, there’s no easy fix and they have “no plans” to follow the NDP initiative.

Former Conservative industry minister Tony Clement, who rode through the Nortel pension fiasco, said his “heart breaks” for Sears pensioners, but it’s tricky: “The real issue is: How do you make sure that lenders still lend to companies if the workers have higher priority than the lenders might.”

While the politicians dicker and play politics, the good news for Sears pensioners is that their pension payouts are not dependent on Duvall’s bill, which in any case would come too late to change the laws that apply to Sears Canada. Instead, they can look to a Supreme Court decision in 2013 that clearly sides with pensioners in the event of bankruptcy.  Sears employees are entitled to — and should receive — the full value of their pension benefits.

That’s the case being made by Andrew Hatnay of Koskie Minsky, which is acting on behalf of Sears Canada employees.  In arguments before an Ontario Superior Court judge overseeing the Sears Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) process, Hatnay says the laws of Ontario and judicial precedent make it clear that Sears employees are entitled to “first priority recovery for those (pension) amounts ahead of the claims of all other creditors.”

The case looks convincing from the outside.  In 2013, the Supreme Court decision in the 2009 bankruptcy of Indalex, a small aluminum manufacturer, concludes that when a corporate pension plan is wound up, the plan becomes a “deemed trust” priority. As a deemed trust, the employer has a responsibility to fulfil all the pension obligations.

In a majority decision, the Supreme Court, citing Ontario law, upheld the requirement that “employers must make [contributions] to ensure that the pension fund is sufficient to cover liabilities upon windup.”  If the windup “shows an actuarial deficit, the employer must make wind-up deficiency payments.”

In the Indalex case, there was no money left to make the payments.  All of it had gone to repay special creditors, known as debtor in possession (DIP) lenders, that had loaned Indalex money to keep it going through bankruptcy. Under federal law, DIP lenders get priority. There were no remaining assets to repay other creditors, including pensioners.

In the case of Sears Canada, however, loans from two major DIP lenders — $300-million from Wells Fargo and up to $175-million from a group of lenders including KKR Capital — have been or will be fully repaid, leaving hundreds of millions in corporate asset value still undistributed. According to a Sears filing in June, the retailer had total assets worth $1.2-billion.

A move to put pensioners at the front of the line started in 2014, when Kolskie Minsky asked the company and the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) to initiate a windup of the pension plan and convert it into a deemed trust priority. As a deemed trust, the company would be required to pay about $160-million of the $270-million funding shortfall, with the balance covered by the Ontario Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund.

Somewhat surprisingly, Ontario’s financial regulator (FSCO) has so far failed to act on behalf of pensioners. Maybe that will change now.

Beyond Sears, Ottawa’s politicians should rethink their long-standing acceptance of the doomsday scenarios put forward by industry, financial companies and bureaucrats. Sears pensioners might be safe, but employees of other companies on the brink of financial crisis might not be.

Contrary to the views of politicians in Ottawa, pensioners should be given super priority. Lenders and other corporate service providers are sophisticated operators who can make decisions and choices about whether to do business with a company. Corporate finances can or should be structured to accommodate pension liabilities. Employees with pension plans are in no position to make such choices.

Pensioners and employees, moreover, are not lenders to the corporation. It’s their earned money. The priority should be to pay pensioners in full.

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What does Digital Marketing in South Africa look like today?



Digital Marketing around the world is at different stages of advancement, from the highly competitive online world in the UK and the US to the less established but rapidly growing scene in countries like South Africa.
In this article, we’re going to pick the brains of James Williams, the Head of Digital Marketing at online loan provider Wonga South Africa, to see what the world of Digital Marketing looks like today, and how it compares to some of the world’s most developed online markets.

Having worked in Digital Marketing in London for a number of years before returning to his native South Africa to take the reigns at Wonga, James is perfectly positioned to compare the two. These are his thoughts…

The importance of culture

One of the key lessons James learned when moving from the UK to the South African market was the importance of culture, and how this affects just about everything you do online. Businesses often talk about ‘localising’ their online assets when expanding into foreign markets and this same process needs to be used to adapt their digital marketing efforts.

When talking about localising assets, it means adapting a product, service or piece of content to meet the needs of a particular language, culture or desired population’s ‘look-and-feel’. The same needs to be done to a business’s Digital Marketing strategy.

In South Africa, there are 11 different languages, each tied to a very different culture. That makes the outreach process much more challenging than in a single language market like the UK. James found that the strategies that were working well in London were producing mediocre engagement rates in South Africa. Instead, James had to almost forget the techniques that had worked before and try new strategies, explore new territory and collect fresh data to help him decide the best approaches to take.

Choosing the right language

Another important consideration for businesses operating online in South Africa is what language to use to attract the greatest level of engagement. The vast majority of South Africans can speak English, but the use of Afrikaans online is currently growing rapidly. That means companies with the resources to do so would be wise to produce all their online assets in both English and Afrikaans.

The primary language used online can also change significantly from location to location. For example, the Western Cape area is largely Afrikaans speaking, while the province of KwaZulu Natal is predominantly Zulu. Digital Marketing campaigns need to reflect this if they are to be successful.

The burgeoning digital scene

One of the biggest benefits of the South African digital scene is the fact that it’s still very much in its infancy when compared to the US and UK. That’s actually a good thing because it means the consumer hasn’t yet been exposed to the huge amount of low-quality content marketing that is all over the internet in the UK. So, when you do create a quality campaign in South Africa, you tend to get the rewards it deserves. In the UK or the US, it is much easier for the quality campaigns to be lost among the bad digital practices that can be found all over the web.

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Easy Instagram Marketing Tips For Gaining Real-Time Results



With time, Instagram is turning out to be an engaging and quite popular social media application. With more than 8 billion registered accounts, it is one of the best social media platforms, proven for brand building and marketing. Around 80 million photos are uploaded in this platform on a daily basis making it a huge active user base. So, if you are planning to run your business with Instagram by your side, you have make way for the right decision. But first, you need to know about easy Instagram marketing tips for gaining real results.

Switch to Instagram business profile:

Before embarking in Instagram marketing journey, you have to be in business account. There are some obvious benefits to switch into business profile.

  • Apart from visiting your website, followers can click on contact button to get in direct touch with your business team.
  • You will get an easy access to the analytics tool straight from Instagram called Insights. Here, you get to see some stats like content reach, impressions and more.
  • You can also create and even publish some Instagram ads without quite depending on advertising tools.

Leveraging some sponsored ads:

Those companies using Instagram advertisement are always on rise. Even the numbers of advertisers is surpassing some of the popular social media platforms like that of Twitter previous year. These points give you reason to actually head for ways to gain more instagram followers these days.Apart from the fact that Instagram has strong 700 million base users, there are some other reasons to head towards this plan.

  • As Facebook and Instagram are connected, you can easily use FB advertising experience for targeting Instagram audience better.
  • Straight from budgeting to creating ads, you get the chance to manage everything about Instagram ads in FB ad manager.
  • These advertisements are non-intrusive and engaging, which will help gaining better conversion rate at lower cost.
  • You will have the creative freedom to use videos and images both for promoting service or product. These ads are quite hard to miss as they occupy the entire mobile device screen.

Partnering with targeted influencers:

If you are planning to reach out to potential customers on Instagram, you can try leveraging influencers already worked on ways to build an audience. With so many people and their being depended on Instagram based feed, it will always vital to get into a partnership with right influencers. It will definitely help your brand to be at the front of the list.

Instagram influencers are known to be power users, with loyal and large follower base that trusts recommendations. If you are planning on ways to make your influencer marketing campaign a successful notion on Instagram, you have to partner with influencers with great and highly relevant audience to product.

Once you know the best ways to use Instagram for marketing strategies, there is no need to look for other names in the market. You can easily use the Instagram skills to improve marketing strategies, resulting in a proper business growth. Just follow the marketing tips with utmost concentration.

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Cranes: Pros and Cons to Consider



Cranes come in different forms, and they come with different functions as well. If you have a project and are thinking of hiring a crane, it’s essential that the crane you choose is the proper fit for your requirements. Making the wrong decision can result in time lost and financial resources wasted, after all. The first step to making the right decision is to learn about their different uses and functionalities. Here, then, is a look at the pros and cons of the various kinds of cranes.

A proper look at static cranes

Static cranes, as the name implies, are cranes that don’t really move, as confirmed by the experts in crane hire, They are categorised by the fact that they remain in one place during the duration of use. Here are some examples:

  • The tower crane is fixed on the ground, but it can also be attached to a structure’s side. Tower cranes are used in tall building construction, and they are capable of lifting and loading the heaviest objects. They are the tallest crane available, although tower cranes are quite expensive and require a lot of time and effort to be installed.
  • The level luffing crane is equipped with a special feature – the hook of the crane is especially designed to stay at a level that is constant. Only the jib arm of the crane will be moved away or towards the crane’s base. The crane can be easily operated at a level that is fixed, and the materials can be more easily loaded with precision. One aspect to note, however, is that the crane requires more time when performing lifting movements.

A proper look at mobile cranes

The mobile crane has a telescopic boom which is attached to a platform. It comes in an array of sizes and shapes, and some of the most popular mobile cranes include the vehicle-mounted crane, the all-terrain crane, and the telescopic handler. Mobile cranes are quicker and easier to set up compared to static cranes, and they’re ideal for indoor jobs. They are also a cheaper alternative to static cranes, and are more flexible as well.

  • The truck-mounted crane is set up on a truck, and it is highly mobile. It can also be rotated to as much as 360 degrees, but it can often move quite slowly around a site.
  • The rough terrain crane is designed especially for rough or off-road surfaces, and this is one of its premier advantages. It is also a stable crane, and it can move effectively around different surfaces. One drawback to this crane, however, is that it cannot be taken on a public motorway.

It is in your best interest to properly consult with a crane hire service so they can give you expert advice on the best choice for your project.

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