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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 1, September 2005

Telus—TWU labour dispute pivotal

On July 21, 2005, TWU members took a stand against Telus. When Telus decided to impose a contract, they set up picket lines across B.C. and Alberta. The offer was never even negotiated with the union.

"This dispute is about workers’ right to job security and a decent standard of living versus corporate greed," said Telecommunications Workers’ Union President, Bruce Bell. "We’ve tried every imaginable way to work out some kind of accommodation with the company, but the people who are running their show want to break our union."

Telus locked out 13,700 TWU members on April 25, 2005. On May 12, Telus stopped collecting union dues. The company sent its contract offer directly to the members instead of negotiating with the elected bargaining committee. Then Telus demanded that the TWU vote on the offer.

TWU members have gone nearly five years without a revised agreement. In 1999, Telus merged with BC Tel. The members of four unions became a single unit under the TWU, but the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) ruled that the TWU contract would not apply to everyone—a revised agreement would have to be negotiated. Negotiations began on November 1, 2000.

Since then Telus has refused to negotiate in a meaningful way. The Canada Industrial Relations Board has found that Telus committed unfair labour practices and poisoned the collective bargaining process, interfered in the administration of a trade union, and communicated with union members in an "insidious" way to create a loss of face from the union.

In January 2004, the board ordered Telus to offer binding arbitration to the TWU. In February 2005, the board quashed its own order for binding arbitration, but upheld that Telus had committed unfair labour practices.

Telus wants to take job security out of the contract, which will give the company the freedom to move jobs out of Canada.

In July 2005, the federal minister of labour offered to appoint a special mediator. The TWU welcomed the offer, but Telus turned it down and instead announced plans to force its offer on TWU members.

Telus has a history of customer service problems. Just two years ago, Telus’ decision to cut thousands of jobs led to the company being cited by the CRTC for poor customer service.

"Telus complains that our contracting-out language restricts their ability to compete," said Bruce Bell. "But the company’s share price was up 40% last year and they were the global telecom leader in terms of revenue, earnings, and cash-flow growth rates."

For details on supporting the TWU, go to www.anotherwrongnumber.com.

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