Toys R Us workers who lost their jobs when the heavily indebted retailer collapsed are talking to two buyout firms about a possible hardship fund — but a third, billionaire investor Steven Roth’s Vornado Realty Trust, is refusing to answer their emails.

KKR and Bain, which took the company private in partnership with Vornado in 2005, are considering providing some financial help for workers who were hardest hit by the toy chain’s bankruptcy last year and ultimate liquidation. Criticism over the treatment of workers has led some public pension funds in the US to reconsider investments with the two firms.

Vornado, which was an equal partner with KKR and Bain in the leveraged buyout that loaded the retailer with more than $5bn of debt, has shunned discussions with representatives of former employees, according to people familiar with the talks.

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