Bell reaches settlement in pay-equity battle

Telecommunications giant agrees to pay $178 million, ending a decade-long dispute with its main operators' union

Bell Canada is forking over $178 million to end a long-standing pay-equity dispute with its operators’ union.

The settlement, reached between Bell and the Canadian Telecommunications Employees’ Association (CTEA), the union representing 96 per cent of employees involved in the dispute, includes a cash payout of about $128 million and related pension benefits of approximately $50 million. The settlement is still subject to ratification.

The settlement comes after a decade-long battle, with the union claiming that thousands of Bell operators — mostly female — were paid less in their jobs compared with male-dominated positions. The union argued the female workers were owed retroactive raises of between 10 and 20 per cent going back to 1992.

“This agreement was reached through the resolve and commitment shown by both parties to act in the best interests of our employees,” said John Sheridan, president and chief operating officer of Bell Canada. “This final agreement exceeds previous offers and, when ratified, will end a lengthy and uncertain legal process.”

Eligible current and former employees will vote between Sept. 19 and 23 to ratify the deal.

“I am very pleased that we were able to reach this deal with Bell Canada,” said Brenda Knight, president of CTEA. “I’m confident that our membership will ratify it because it serves their real interest. It provides them with substantial amounts of money in a very short time frame, and it may end a long and costly litigation, the outcome of which has been highly uncertain. This is a significant milestone in equity-related gains we have made over the last decade.”

As part of the settlement, Bell and CTEA have assigned a joint committee the responsibility to participate in maintaining equity within Bell in the future.

“As much as we are happy to settle our past claims, we are aware that pay equity issues will have to remain a priority for the CTEA,” said Knight. “We intend to remain vigilant and focused on our objective: to ensure that our members receive equal pay for work of equal value.”

The four per cent of workers not covered by this deal are represented by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union. Brian Payne, CEP president, said if the offer proposed to CTEA is similar to what was recently proposed to CEP, it was unacceptable.

"It's not fair. It's not acceptable. It's not pay equity," said Payne. "If the agreement announced today (Sept. 4, 2002) between the Canadian Telecommunications Employees Association and Bell Canada is in any way similar to the proposal made to us, it does not represent a fair settlement."

For more information on the pay equity dispute with Bell Canada, click on the links below.

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