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Unifor’s fightback against Bell

Unifor is appalled by the callous decision by Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. (BCE)to terminate 4,800 jobs – 9% of its workforce – affecting 800 Unifor members in telecommunications and media, while deliberately putting shareholders ahead of workers with increased dividend payouts.

Bell has slashed news programming, eliminating the jobs of 100 media members at newsrooms across the country. Deep cuts in telco will result in job loss for 700 members, from clerical, to sales, to the boots on the ground, with hundreds more affected by modifications in their hours of work.

And the union is fighting back.

Unifor National President Lana Payne sent a direct message to Bell executives and its board of directors.

“Bell has chosen to put profits over people in the middle of an affordability crisis. Bell, you have now put Unifor squarely on your path. You need to know our members recognize a fight when they see one. And so do I,” said Payne.

Watch Lana Payne’s message to Bell executives

This is the largest mass layoff by the company in 30 years and delivered at a time when the company is on sound financial footing, able to continuously raise dividends year-over-year during the past decade and buy back shares which helps to feather the nests of shareholders and executives.

The fight continued at the House of Commons when Payne fiercely spoke at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage about the grim landscape and “news deserts” inflicting the media sector in Canada.

“Canadian telecommunications and media companies have a responsibility that is bigger than shareholders,” said Payne in her speech. “They have a responsibility to Canadians and to Canada. And to journalism.”

Watch the testimony

The company is also cancelling the noon news broadcasts on all CTV stations, except in Toronto, and its dinner and evening weekend newscasts on all CTV and CTV2 stations, except in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. The loss of local news across Canada is devastating to our country and our democracy.

This follows the elimination of 1,300 media jobs last June by Bell.

While Bell continues to pass the buck, blaming the federal government and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s slow roll to provide financial relief for media companies through The Online News Act (Bill C-18) and updates to the Broadcast Act (Bill C-11), the company still reported a whopping $2.3 billion profit at the end of last year.

In his video message to Bell, Unifor Quebec Director Daniel Cloutier expressed the deserved anger felt by those impacted by the job losses towards the company and its executives.

“This is a company with money. On the same day that it announces cuts to 4,800 jobs, including 800 at Unifor, it also announces an increase in the dividend to shareholders,” he said.

“It's clear that they're trying to maximize the return to shareholders, but at the same time, maintain the structure with the big salaries at senior management level with big bonuses on the backs of workers, and that's totally unacceptable. For that alone, we are right to be angry.”

Daniel Cloutier calls Bell

Unifor is mobilizing ahead of Bell executives being summoned to testify at the House of Commons Heritage Committee in Ottawa in the near future. Further details will be shared in the coming weeks. 

Unifor represents 26,000 telecommunications workers, including more than 19,000 members at BCE Inc. and its subsidiaries. The union also represents more than 10,000 media workers, including over 2,100 members at Bell Media.

Link to Unifor National article

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