News of Bell layoffs met with trepidation from union leaders
By: Tyler Searle
Winnipeg Free Press, June 15, 2023
News of impending layoffs at Bell was met with trepidation from union leaders representing Bell employees in Winnipeg, who say they’ve had little to no communication from company officials.
BCE Inc. announced Wednesday that it is cutting 1,300 positions, around three per cent of its workforce, and closing or selling nine radio stations as the company plans to “significantly adapt” how it delivers the news. Here’s a look at who and what’s affected by the cuts to their journalism platform.
“This announcement today is just a continuation of what we’ve seen locally,” Erin Spencer, executive director of the Telecommunication Employees Association of Manitoba said. “The work remains in many cases, but those jobs are gone, and they are not being replaced… These are well-paid, highly-skilled, unionized jobs that are leaving the economy.”
TEAM members have suffered nine rounds of downsizing since 2017, resulting in the loss of more than 250 positions. The union represents staff working within Bell’s telecom sector and Spencer anticipates some of their positions may be included in the 1,300 lost, she said.
“People are upset and they are concerned. Our members are hurting right now. Many of them are struggling with the workloads, so the idea they may potentially be losing more of their colleagues… they are not sure how the work’s going to continue to get done.”
Jackie Prynne, president of Unifor 7, which represents Bell’s local clerical workers, said her office was not notified of the layoff announcement.
“I wasn’t surprised,” she said of the latest round of cuts. “I just think that’s the way Bell does business… They will do something the cheapest way viable for them to do it.”
A provision in the union’s collective bargaining agreement has somewhat protected Unifor 7 members from direct layoffs, but many have been lured into leaving with retirement packages. The subsequent vacancies have been relocated out of the province, or eliminated, Prynne said.
She estimates half of Bell’s workforce has left the province in recent years.
Members with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 435 were similarly confused as to whether the latest layoffs will affect them, manager Joe Breland said by email.
“I do not have any more information than that which was released by the press. I have asked the company if it intends to reduce in the IBEW jurisdiction and have not yet heard back from Bell. The failure to give Unions advance notice of something like this is common with Bell,” he said.