Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Unifor rallies in Ottawa to protest Bell job cuts

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Unifor rallied in Ottawa on March 19 to call out Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. (BCE) for postponing a scheduled hearing before the House of Commons Heritage Committee to answer for the recent termination of 9% of BCE’s workforce.

“Last year alone, while cutting jobs, Bell paid out an all-time high of $3.7 billion to shareholders. And between 2020 and 2022, CEO compensation rose by a whopping 40%. Is it any wonder workers in this country are angry?” said Unifor National President Lana Payne.

“In this round of job cuts, the majority of Unifor members losing their employment are customer service and clerical workers, mostly women. Axed by a BCE Board of Directors made up of mostly wealthy men.”

This is the second time Bell executives have begged off scheduled appearances before the Heritage Committee, first on Feb. 29 and again today, on March 19. 

Unifor represents more than 19,000 telecommunications workers at BCE and its subsidiaries. The union also represents more than 2,100 members at Bell Media.

The union launched its “Shame on Bell” campaign in response to last month’s announcement that BCE is callously eliminating 4,800 jobs, including 800 Unifor members in telco and media.

“Today, we stand up against Bell’s injustice and greed. Every job lost represents a life disrupted, a family affected,” said Unifor Quebec Director Daniel Cloutier. 

“Canadians deserve better from their telecommunications companies. Bell’s decision to cut thousands of jobs, despite its considerable profits, is an insult to the loyalty and hard work of its employees. We are gathering in Ottawa to remind Bell and other companies that workers are not just pawns in their quest for profits.”

In June 2023, Bell Media eliminated 1,300 jobs. News coverage was further decimated last month with the elimination of most CTV News noon and weekend news casts and the dismantling of W5 as a long-form investigative unit. 

Kevin Newman, award winning news anchor, journalist, and former host of W5, expressed his concerns as he joined Unifor leadership at a Parliament Hill media conference. 

“By slashing its newsrooms year after year Bell is leading an information retreat among all broadcasters, and creating TV and radio news deserts where there are few, if any, private sector journalists. Canadians are left asking, ‘Where do we find the truth now?’” said Newman.

Newman warned that in an era of disinformation and cognitive warfare aimed at undermining the truth Bell Media workers want Canadians to hear their concern that the constant news cuts are now to the bone – at a time when verified, fact-based reporting is under constant strain from external forces, and their own company.

“To keep cutting the Bell division devoted to the pursuit of truth amounts to capitulation to those adversaries who are trying to undermine our trust in truth, in one another, and in our peaceful society” he said. “This is the time to fortify our information defences, not tear them down.”

The mass termination of more than 6,000 workers in the last eight months occurred while BCE continues to rake in profits, reporting a whopping $2.3 billion profit at the end of last year. 

Find more info on Bell job cuts, profits and dividend payouts here

Following the media conference, Unifor leadership joined Bell workers to rally and march on Bell’s Ottawa headquarters, shouting the message loud and clear: Shame on Bell.

“We need a commitment to your employees and Canadians to provide telco and media services with integrity,” said Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer Len Poirier.

“Canadians deserve access to the best networks to be a globally-leading country. If you cannot make that happen under your current leadership, you need to change that. Change your vision or change your leadership.”

Unifor Ontario Regional Director and former Bell member Samia Hashi said she and the union “stand against the relentless erosion of good quality Canadian jobs and we demand a stop to the contracting out and offshoring of our work.”

Meanwhile, Unifor Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle warned Bell to expect the union’s actions to continue.

“Bell, you have awoken a giant,” he said. “Bell is coast-to-coast? Well, so is Unifor.”

Julie Kotsis, Chairperson of Unifor’s Media Council said the fallout from Bell Media cutting local news is that “Canadians across the country are less informed and our democracy is weakened. It’s time to tell BCE and Bell Media that enough is enough.”

Jeff Brohman, the Chair of Unifor National Telecommunications Industry Council, told the crowd how members have gathered to express their “disgust with what Bell has done to our fellow co-workers, their families and the company that we and the hard-working union members before us built.”

Watch the Unifor ‘Shame on Bell’ Media Conference 

See pictures from the Unifor ‘Shame on Bell’ rally

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