Bell CEO fails to justify mass firings in Heritage Committee testimony


OTTAWA – In his appearance before the House of Commons Heritage Committee, Bell CEO Mirko Bibic failed to justify cutting thousands of jobs while Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. (BCE) increased their dividends to a record-high $3.7 billion in 2023.

“We heard nothing in today’s testimony that could possibly justify BCE’s firing of more than 6,000 people with one hand while hiking executive pay and shareholder payouts with the other,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “The fact that the corporation thought it could take both these actions at the same time shows just how out of touch they are with the Canadian public right now.”

“We know Bell can’t possibly believe cutting thousands of jobs will improve telecommunications services to customers and strengthen local news media across the country. Yet, that is exactly the message they tried to sell. No one is buying this alternate math. Workers, customers and all Canadians deserve better than corporate spin from a telecommunications giant like Bell.”

Unifor vehemently refutes statements by Bibic implying that the union agreed with the company to make the job cuts.

“I want to be very clear because facts do matter. It is blatantly false that Unifor was in any way, shape or form in favour or agreement with Bell’s deplorable decision to fire thousands of workers,” said Payne. “For Bell’s CEO to infer as such is outrageous, deceptive and delusional.”

The Bell CEO was grilled by MPs about BCE’s mass firings, increased dividend payouts, lucrative executive pay increases, service cuts, and, notably, whether the company properly followed federal labour regulations. Bibic received numerous questions as to whether Bell provided the appropriate 16 weeks notice to the government before the company terminated 4,800 workers in February 2024.

“Faced with legitimate questions about the thousands of jobs sacrificed, Mirko Bibic is simply like a broken record, ignoring the urgent call for transparency and accountability,” said Unifor Quebec Director Daniel Cloutier.

“Workers deserve better than repetitive, evasive answers. The CEO has clearly failed to justify the major job cuts. It seems that greed is the only obvious explanation behind these actions.”

Unifor is anticipating and will be closely monitoring the Bell shareholders meeting on Thursday, May 2.

“We call on shareholders to hold Bell executives and board members to account and to ask tough questions about these callous decisions,” said Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer Len Poirier.

Unifor represents more than 19,000 telecommunications workers at BCE and its subsidiaries. The union also represents more than 2,100 members at Bell Media.

The union launched its “Shame on Bell” campaign in response to last month’s announcement that BCE is callously eliminating 4,800 jobs, including 800 Unifor members in telco and media.

Earlier this week, Unifor launched a new Meet the Board page to show the faces of the privileged corporate elite, made up of mostly wealthy men, behind the decision to gut BCE’s workforce.

Find more info on Bell job cuts, profits and dividend payouts here.

Statement on the National Day of Mourning

National Day of Mourning April 28, candles


April 28 is the Day of Mourning, a day to remember workers who have died or become injured because of their work. It is also a time to renew our commitment to building safe workplaces and fighting for the safety of all workers.

Close to 1,000 workers in Canada die each year in workplace incidents.

This is a staggering statistic, but those who are lost must be more than one number among many.

They are our lost colleagues, friends, and loved ones. Families are forever changed and forever carrying grief.

To date in 2024, Unifor mourns the loss of MWF Local 1 member Jamie Knight who was struck by a payloader clearing snow at the Halifax Shipyard on February 23, and a transport driver member of Local 4209 at Kindersley Transport who was killed in a head-on collision with another transport truck on March 6.

Unifor honours their memory by recommitting to our work to improve health and safety across all workplaces. This means pushing authorities, regulators, and employers to make worker safety a top-line priority for everyone, from the C-suite to the shop floor and beyond.

Unifor activists are transforming workplaces, pushing for positive changes to priorities, programs, and protections every day. The work of health and safety activists is challenging and often encounters resistance from employers who put profits ahead of safety. Health and safety work is essential work that must never be neglected or relegated to the sidelines. It is at the heart of what we do as a union.

On March 31, 2024, Unifor marked the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Westray Law which amended the Criminal Code of Canada. Unions campaigned for this law for a decade following a preventable explosion that killed 26 miners at the Westray Mine in Nova Scotia. These amendments made it possible for corporations and executives to be held criminally responsible for actions or negligence that led to a worker being injured or killed.

And yet, this legal tool is not used to its full power and potential, robbing many families of justice and allowing corporations to continue cutting corners with minimal repercussions.

Since its enactment in 2004, there have been only 10 successful convictions of a corporation or individual, despite tens of thousands of worker deaths.

This must change. Police authorities, Crown prosecutors and safety regulators must effectively use the Westray Law or corporations will continue to escape serious responsibility for their neglect.

So today, let us remember our rights, enforce our rights, and continue to support each other as trade unionists to build stronger safety cultures and ultimately a world where every worker goes home safe and healthy at the end of the work day.

Unifor proposes amendments to Ontario Bill 165


Unifor Ontario Regional Director Samia Hashi and President of Unifor Local 975 Doug Carter testified on April 8 to the Standing Committee on the Interior about contracting out and methane leaks in Ontario’s gas sector that result in increased costs to consumers.

“The Ontario government has a unique chance to contain household gas prices increases, fight climate change, and protect good jobs at the same time. It’s a win-win for workers and Ontario families,” said Hashi.

In their testimony to the committee, Hashi and Carter argued that the Ontario Energy Board must do a more rigorous job monitoring gas companies’ investments in infrastructure. Aging gas infrastructure leads to methane leaks, which both contributes to climate change and drives up costs to consumers.

“When gas leaks are not fixed, Ontario families pay three times: They pay through the delayed investment in upgrading and maintaining our gas infrastructure; they pay for it through climate change; they pay through the increased risks of major safety incidents,” Hashi said.

Unifor also noted that regulated gas utility companies have been contracting out maintenance and leak mitigation, which only serves to erode the core competencies and skills sets of the permanent workforce. The result is a “virtual utility” where the regulated entity is simply passing on the work to a contractor.

Carter said that contracting out is ultimately unsafe, hurts the quality of service, and significantly increases the long-term costs of maintaining Ontario’s gas infrastructure.

“The way that contracting is happening in the gas industry is resulting in inferior quality services, resulting in increased costs, sustained high risks of dangerous gas leaks, and health and safety incidents. We must ensure our utilities have the workers and the in-house skills to ensure safe, reliable, and leak-free infrastructure.”

Unifor proposed amendments to the committee studying the legislation that would help the regulator address these issues.

On February 20, 2024 National President Lana Payne wrote to the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources about methane leaks.

Budget 2024 delivers social progress to help Canadians weather economic headwinds

Unifor flag flying in front of Parliament Hill


OTTAWA –Unifor recognizes the federal government for delivering a budget that pushes social progress and jobs in the face of economic inequities, relentless affordability pressures and stubbornly high interest rates.

“Working people in Canada have been struggling with an affordability crisis, exacerbated by the Bank of Canada’s stubborn refusal to lower interest rates,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne.

“Budgets can’t undo decades of revenue-depleting tax cuts, but they can act as building-blocks for more creative and progressive ways to help Canadians weather the economic challenges they face now and in the future.”

With a focus on “Fairness for Every Generation”, Budget 2024 commits to significantly bolster Canada’s housing stock, including affordable rental housing and social housing and provides new protections to renters. The Budget also commits to establish a long overdue national school food program that, along with childcare, dental care, and the beginnings of a pharmacare program, represent the most ambitious progress on social programs in decades.

Unifor is pleased to hear of the commitment to new funding for VIA Rail to replace its aging fleet of passenger rail vehicles. However, without distinct commitments to keep VIA Rail public and rail cars built in Canada, the country will not reap the full rewards of the investment.

In the auto sector, a new Electric Vehicle (EV) Supply Chain investment tax credit was announced to support growth in the EV supply chain. The budget also invests in space and aerospace with a commitment to enhance technology development for space exploration and purchase necessary vehicles and equipment. Unifor believes these efforts must be coupled with a procurement strategy and industrial strategy that ensures equipment will be designed and built in Canada.

Increasing taxes on wealthy individuals has been a long-standing Unifor recommendation. The union commends the government’s decision to increase the Capital Gains tax paid by the wealthiest individuals and corporations and encourages government to continue exploring additional tax reform measures that ensure the rich pay their fair share.

Unifor also welcomes the government’s commitment to developing legislation that guides requirements for safe long-term care homes through the Safe Long-Term Care Act and to develop a National Caregiving Strategy, which affects nurses, personal support workers and early child care educators among others.

Budget 2024 did miss the mark on several key recommendations identified by Unifor.

“This budget failed to address priorities including recapitalizing the Strategic Innovation Fund, investment in domestically manufactured transit vehicles and rolling stock, targeted supports for workers in Canada’s forestry sector and disclosure by telecommunications companies on outsourcing work,” said Unifor Quebec Director Daniel Cloutier.

The union is also disappointed by the key omission of Employment Insurance reform to improve eligibility and benefits for workers.

“Unifor will continue to fight for strong industrial policy and for the government to deliver on a long-standing promise to modernize and improve the Employment Insurance Program to ensure that it supports workers when they need it the most,” Payne added.

In 2020, Unifor released its Build Back Better road map to pave the way for a fair, inclusive and resilient economic recovery, throughout and beyond the pandemic.

That road map included affordable child care, universal pharmacare, critical infrastructure, anti-scab legislation and industrial development and investment.

“The pandemic exposed workers’ vulnerability to the long-standing weaknesses in our social services and gaps in industrial policies, made worse by the previous Harper government,” said Payne. “It’s encouraging to see this government lay the foundations for progress that will serve workers well for generations to come.”