Booted from Bell, employees released in virtual meet

Mar 28, 2024 | Biz/Tech, News

More than 400 Bell employees were put on mute and laid off in a virtual meeting, on March 20, 2024.

The employees belonged to telecommunications in the Bell Clerical Bargaining Unit, who were declared ‘surplus’ with only a few entitled to a retirement incentive, as per a press release by Unifor, the union representing Bell employees

Previously, when Bell laid off nine per cent of its workforce on Feb. 8, 2024, Mirko Bibic, president and chief executive officer of Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) Inc. and of Bell Canada, said they had assured fair treatment to the workers affected in his open letter.

“Please know we will support each person affected, including fair severance packages along with career transition services and continued access to our health benefits,” Bibic said.

Unifor, the union representing 19,000 workers at Bell said, Bell’s Human Resources and Labour Relations Manager, Christopher Corsi, held a 10-minute meeting without allowing anybody to unmute and ask questions.

Unifor National President Lana Payne said Bell tried increasing its dividend payout without proper planning.

“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,” she said.

Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer Len Poirier said Bell’s priority is to pay shareholders before its employees.

“Our dedicated, loyal, workers, who are predominately women, will have to explain to their families tonight that they are being let go from Bell for no good reason other than making sure that their shareholders and Board of Directors come first when getting paid,” he said. “It’s absolutely disgusting.”

Unifor said that Bell will now onwards allow union representatives and group call members to unmute themselves in all future meetings.

According to the press release, the employees were let go one day after Unifor rallied in Ottawa to call out BCE for terminating thousands of employees in the past despite making profits and increasing dividend payouts.

In response to BCE terminating nine per cent of its employees, Unifor launched its “Shame on Bell” campaign on March 7, 2024.

According to a report by Unifor, BSE released more than 6,000 people in the last eight months despite paying out an all-time high $3.7 billion in dividends to shareholders.

Dharampreet Singh Khaira, a human resources specialist at Adecco Canada, told Humber News there are legal and ethical implications surrounding Bell terminating its workforce over a virtual meet.

“There are two things that an employer needs to take care of under the Employment Standards Act, they have to provide at least two weeks of written notice to their employees that their job would be terminated or if they can’t give that much period, they will have to give them the severance pay for two weeks,” he said.

It is legal if they’re firing through a virtual meet because there is a notice and they’re communicating it,” Khaira said. “It’s legal, but you know it’s not ethically correct.”

He said he does not believe this is good business and is bad for their brand image.

“Hiring and firing should be a two-way conversation, not a one-way conversation, like ethically speaking, like if we’re doing things the right way,” he said.

Khaira said companies like Bell prioritize shareholders over their workers.

“As much as we’d like to believe that companies have a responsibility to their employees, their undying loyalty is towards their shareholders because those are the owners of the company,” he said.