Telus unionized employees strike

Half of the 11,500 unionized employees in British Columbia and Alberta didn't show up for work on Thursday

In an attempt to beat Telus to the punch, the Telecommunications Workers Union has called a strike action of its members who work in British Columbia and Alberta. The strike was a pre-emptive move against the telecommunication company’s bold plan to end a nearly five-year-long labour dispute with TWU by unilaterally instituting a new contract on Friday that none of the union members have voted on.

“We fully intend and will implement our offer of settlement tomorrow,” said Telus vice-president business solutions Bruce Okabe.

Whether or not the telecommunication company can legally do so is still up for debate.

While the union has refused to bring the contract before its 11,500 members, as of Friday, July 22, the company will consider any employees who show up for work as tacitly agreeing to the terms of the contract, which include annual raises of two per cent for five years and variable raises based on the company’s performance.

TWU president Bruce Bell told the media recently that Telus’s move to implement the contract was forcing the union to strike. According to Okabe, as of the morning of July 21, half of the unionized employees didn’t show up for work. He said that they had a contingency plan in place and that managers are answering the phones and doing other jobs for which the striking employees are responsible.

Under the British Columbia Labour Relations Code, an employer is entitled to set new conditions of work if it has bargained in good faith and negotiations have reached an impasse.
However, Telus and the TWU fall under the Canada Industrial Relations Board’s purview. The federal board is still considering the issue and while there’s currently no timeline of when the board will render its decision, CIRB spokesperson Caroline Gravel said they know the matter is urgent.

Also before the board are TWU complaints over Telus’s sending of contract details directly to employees in April. The company also allegedly locked out employees who took part in “study sessions” (hour-long mini strikes) earlier this month.

“The issues will be addressed as a whole,” said Gravel. “They’re currently in front of the board for determination.”

The trouble began in 1999 when Alberta’s Telus Corp merged with BC Tel to form Telus. When their contract expired in 2000, TWU wanted to negotiate the same deal it used to get for its BC Tel employees. In the past, BC Tel enjoyed a monopoly in the province’s telephone market and as such, employees were able to negotiate very favourable collective agreements.

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