Bell, a massive telecom company in Canada fires hundreds of workers in less than ten minutes

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Bell, a massive telecom company in Canada fires hundreds of workers in less than ten minutes
Bell, a massive telecom company in Canada fires hundreds of workers in less than ten minutes

The union that represents the workers, Unifor, claims that during brief virtual group sessions, more than 400 employees of the enormous telecom corporation Bell were let go.

Over 400 employees of the massive telecom company Bell were let go during quick virtual group meetings, according to Unifor, the union that represents the workers. The largest private-sector union in Canada, Unifor, called the impersonal nature of the terminations “beyond shameful” in a statement.

During ten-minute video chats, the sacked employees—many of whom had worked for Bell for many years—were told they were being designated “surplus.” According to Unifor, management read a notification of layoffs without giving workers or union officials an opportunity to raise questions. Daniel Cloutier, the director of Unifor in Quebec, said in a statement: “Our members, who have devoted years of service to this telecoms and media giant, are being repaid with pink slips.”

Bell’s director of communications, Ellen Murphy, refuted parts of Unifor’s characterization in a response to the Toronto Star. Murphy said that the business has complied with its obligations under collective bargaining agreements and has been open and honest with union leadership regarding the layoff process for more than five weeks. Murphy said that in addition to individual HR sessions, terminated employees also discussed severance compensation.

The layoffs followed Bell’s announcement in February of plans to remove 4,800 workers, or roughly 9% of the workforce. During an earnings call with investors, CEO Mirko Bibic described the changes as necessary to “simplify our organization and accelerate our transformation,” as reported by the Toronto Star. But at the same time that Bell increased its dividend payment to shareholders, the decision was widely criticized.

Over 19,000 workers at Bell and its subsidiaries are represented by Unifor, whose members have expressed dread at receiving meeting invites ever since the announcement in February. Lana Payne, National President of Unifor, stated in the union’s news release that “the truth is Bell picked a number of heads to roll so it could increase its dividend payout without an actual plan on which jobs and which workers would be eliminated, so the terminations are cruelly dragged out.”

Unifor members demonstrated in Ottawa against the cuts and criticized Bell for delaying parliamentary hearings where it was supposed to answer questions regarding the layoffs, according to a press release from the union. The “Shame on Bell” campaign was started by Unifor in reaction to the layoffs.

The virtual terminations are reminiscent of a similar controversy that erupted in 2021, when the Toronto Star had earlier reported that certain Bell Media employees were informed they were being let go through brief conference calls.

Bell argues that, in order to streamline the organization and change the company, layoffs are an essential component of the required restructuring. The demonstrators counter that the cuts put corporate profits ahead of employee wages. Unifor promises to keep up its opposition to the way the firm is handling the layoffs.

Unifor claims that at the end of 2022, Bell claimed a $2.3 billion profit. According to a report, Len Poirier, National Secretary-Treasurer of Unifor, stated: “Our devoted, faithful employees—the majority of whom are women—will have to explain to their families tonight that they are being let go from Bell for no reason other than ensuring that their shareholders and Board of Directors come first when getting paid. It is utterly repulsive.”

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