Lockout for Some Employees of Bell TV
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Lockout for Some Employees of Bell TV

Talks break down between Bell and staff at Scarsdale Road facility.

Employees at Bell TV’s Scarsdale Road facility have been on lockout since July 11, following a contract dispute in which some of the telecommunications company’s actions have been ruled illegal by the Canadian Industrial Relations Board.

About 20 of the 114 locked-out employees—all members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) Local 79M—were in front of the facility’s three driveways on Monday morning, holding up signs, asking Bell to sit down with them to discuss a fair collective bargaining agreement. Two tents were set up to serve as bases of operation, and two port-a-potties rented for the workers’ use were sweltering hot under the summer sun.

The lockout is the result of an ongoing dispute between Bell TV and CEP regarding wages, vacations, and adjustments to things like overtime rules. Any collective agreement between Bell TV and the union would be a first; the employees weren’t unionized before negotiations got underway in April 2011.

The dispute began in earnest on July 6 of this year, when Bell TV offered the workers a non-negotiable proposal. The union rejected it on July 10 and issued a 72-hour notice for a strike to take place on July 14. Soon afterward, Bell issued a lockout notice to take effect at one minute after midnight on July 14.

Days before the lockout was set to begin, at 4 a.m. on July 11, all unionized employees were escorted off the premises of the 24-hour facility. Remaining workers were told not to show up for their scheduled shifts. All of the suspended employees continued to receive full pay. CEP, upset that its members had been barred from work before the lockout was scheduled to begin, took the matter to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board.

The CIRB later determined that by barring employees from work before the lockout was scheduled to begin, Bell TV had violated the law. A copy of the board’s decision has been posted on the CEP 79M website.

Negotiations, currently, are at a standstill. “We haven’t been in touch with Bell at all,” said Mike Kachurowski, a CEP national representative.

“It’s important to note that Bell received 72-hour strike notice from the CEP first, on July 10,” said Bell spokesperson Jacqueline Michelis, in a statement. “Because our focus is on ensuring uninterrupted service for Bell TV customers, we sent these unionized employees home with full pay until the 72-hour strike notice expired, while management assumed Bell TV network operations. Bell has bargained at length with the CEP and presented a fair and appropriate proposal for the Bell TV network employees.”

Bell TV, formerly Bell ExpressVu, is one of Canada’s largest satellite and fibre-optic TV services. The workers on strike are responsible for the transmission of broadcast signals and the company’s video on demand service.

Photos by James Edgar/Torontoist.