Unifor’s “Shame on Bell” campaign

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A large-scale response to Bell’s decision to cut 4,800 jobs while turning a profit

In response to Bell Canada Enterprise Inc. (BCE Inc.) postposing a scheduled hearing in front of the House of Commons Heritage Committee to answer for the termination of 9 per cent of BCE’s employees, Unifor – a private sector union – rallied in Ottawa on March 19, 2024.

In February of 2024, BCE Inc. announced the elimination of 9 per cent of its workforce. 9 per cent of the workforce is roughly equivalent to 4,800 jobs, including 800 Unifor members in telecommunications and media. Many view the cuts as a means to put shareholders above the workers by increasing the dividend payout they receive.

100 media members in newsrooms across the country were slashed while deep cuts in telecommunications resulted in the loss of jobs for 700 members. These position cuts range from clerical to sales, to the people working on the ground. Hundreds more BCE Inc. employees were also affected by modifications in their hours of work.

Unifor, which represents more than 19,000 telecommunications workers at BCE and its subsidiaries and more than 2,100 members at Bell Media, launched its “Shame on Bell” campaign in response to this announcement.

“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 Lana Payne, Unifor’s National President.

The company also cancelled 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.

This is not the first time that Bell has slashed employment. In June 2023, 1,300 jobs were cut by the company.

While it can be tempting to think that a company resorts to slashing jobs and laying of employees in times of financial crisis, it is interesting to note here that BCE Inc. continues to turn a profit, with a reported $2.3 billion in profit at the end of last year. Despite that, the company continues to pass the buck and blame the federal government and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s slowness in providing financial relief for media companies through The Online News Act (Bill C-18) and updates to the Broadcast Act (Bill C-11).

“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,” said Daniel Cloutier, Unifor’s Quebec Director. “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.”

The rally on March 19 was the second time after Feb 29 that the workers called for BCE Inc. to appear in front of the House of Commons Heritage Committee. During an affordability crisis, the workers are understandably upset with the callous steps taken by the company.

“Our Bell members are here today while Bell executives continue to play games and delay accountability for firing thousands of workers across Canada while hiking shareholder payouts,” said Payne. “Bell Board members and executives may feel the backlash will die down if they hide in the shadows, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Unifor will keep their actions directly in the spotlight,” Payne promised.

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