[Marxism] Telecomunication workers labour struggle in BC continues

Ivan D. Drury ivanddrury at yahoo.ca
Sat Oct 8 20:23:07 MDT 2005

Two articles on the labour movement in British
Columbia, Canada today - specifically on the critical
strike of the Telecomunication Workers Union against
the attempted union busting of Telus.

The first article, "Resistance! Struggle for the
rights of all working people, support the Telus
workers!" can be read through this link:

The second, a recent update, is pasted below.

- Ivan

Fire This Time Newspaper
Issue #26/27
September/October 2005

TWU Steps up the struggle against Telus and
"Replacement Workers"

 The Telus Lockout Continues

By Ivan Drury

    I'm going for decertification of the union."
    - Telus CEO Darren Entwistle

    "One day longer!"
    - Telecommunication Workers' Union picket slogan

    Telus workers, CBC workers and Hospital workers
all have two major things in common. First; they are
all workers who are under attack by their bosses.
Second; their bosses, all acting under the pressures
of seeking greater profits in an international
marketplace that is crushing weaker capitalists in
fierce competition between monopoly corporations, are
carrying out these attacks with their primary goal
being breaking the union of their employees.

    This struggle for the right to organize and for a
strong union, is currently being led by the
Telecommunication Workers Union (TWU) but it is
destined to be a common struggle of all working people
in Canada. And if the defence of the TWU is critical
to the future of the labour movement in Canada, and to
the rights of all working people; truly we have
entered a new era of struggle for the rights of
working people. It is no accident either that the very
time that every boss in Canada has begun to seek the
surest ways to cut costs and increase profits (scaling
back wages and benefits of workers), that these
attacks would be led by axe wielding maniacs seeking
to behead the labour movement. If we allow them to
succeed in their mission to decapitate the TWU, then
all other unions will fall beneath the guillotine and
workers in Canada will be set back by decades, both in
the rights, wages and job protections we have won
through previous struggle and in our ability to carry
out future struggles in our own defence.

    The historical fight for the right to organize

    The struggle for the right to organize and hold
unions is nothing new, but perhaps it is because it
was won so long ago, it is difficult to recognize.
When the labour movement first stood on its feet 70 or
80 years ago in Canada and the US, it was met with
fierce attacks from the bosses and the government. The
first strikes were organized around the simple demands
of recognition of the unions by the companies, for the
right to collective bargaining and the right to
organize. The company would immediately hire, out of
the massive leagues of the unemployed, scab workers.
Then, when the newborn unions blocked jobsites and
beat back the scabs they were met with deployments of
company thugs, often made up of armed gangs of
deputized businessmen and managers, and government
thugs in police and army uniforms. The union workers
armed themselves in self-defence and battles shook the
streets, all in the name of the right to organize.

    The ruling class capitalists were faced with a
rising class polarization where, despite massive
slander campaigns against the unions as "communists"
and "gangsters," support for the strikers spread
throughout the entire working class like a prairie
fire and massive support rallies were organized. In an
effort to break the strike and the unions, the
companies issued bonuses to workers who would betray
the union and cross the picket line and penalties to
those who would not. It was only through following the
principles of unity and solidarity that these
maneuvers by the bosses were defeated and these
critical strikes were won. This was more difficult the
longer the strike went on, because workers and their
families grew hungry and their confidence would begin
to wane. Knowing this, it was critical that the strike
be strong, that no scab be allowed to pass, and that
the ranks of strikers not be allowed to diminish. The
stronger the strike, the faster it would be possible
to break the company and win. The bosses also knew
this, and would do everything they could to keep
business running, to buy time, tire the strikers out,
and wear the union down.

    For both sides it was a desperate struggle. For
the unions and the workers it was a struggle for
survival, and for the bosses it was a struggle for
more profit off the backs of the workers. The victory
of the unions set the entire future of the labour
movement in the US and Canada.

    Yet the struggle is not over; and now it seems
that this dramatic stage in the history of the labour
movement is about to be replayed. Faced with an
international economic crisis, once again, bosses are
attacking workers and trying to strangle unions in
pursuit of greater profits. And, in self-defence,
workers and unions are struggling for their survival.
The TWU lockout sets the opening scenes of this play
and, as before, the entire future of the labour
movement and all working people hangs in the balance.

    "Replacement Workers" are the enemies of workers

    "The TWU submits that with that many managers
[14,000!] TELUS has the resources and therefore the
ability to perform bargaining unit work during a
labour dispute. Therefore, the TWU submits that the
only reason TELUS is using replacement workers on the
huge scale that it is (ie. many thousands) is with the
hope and intention of 'busting the Union' in violation
of Section 94(2.1) of the Code."
    - From the TWU complaint to the Canadian
Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) against TELUS'
hiring of scab labour

    "The second principle is that an employer cannot
use replacement workers for improper and illegal
purposes, such as to rid the workplace of union
representation, as opposed to pursuing a particular
economic goal or bargaining objective. Thus, the
employer's use of replacement workers must not be used
to undermine the union's representational capacity."
    - CIRB Decision No. 271, Citing Section 94(2.1) of
the Code, pph. 106-107

    As soon as it was clear that a lockout would
occur, just as in the first strikes for union
representation, Telus's first act was to begin to hire
scab labour. At first this was done 'in-house' and
involved the re-deployment of the army of 14,000
managers and non-bargaining unit members to union
jobs. Since August 15th Telus has hired more than 130
"contract workers" to management positions to cover
the jobs of some of these managers busy doing union
jobs. An August 27th letter to the editor of the
Edmonton Journal explained this move in its title
alone, "Telus strike [sic.] is taking a toll on
non-union workers."

    But this has not been enough for Telus's goal of
breaking the union. Since July the company has begun
an aggressive hiring spree of so-called "replacement
workers" (traditionally known as 'scabs') to staff
locked out union positions to keep business going and
extend the lockout to break the union.

    The following ad appeared in the July 24th edition
of the Vancouver Province from the Telus Subsidiary
"Key Telecom":

    "KEY TELECOM: Immediate openings across Canada.
All experienced craft I and R, Cable and Repair,
Central Office Toll Desk, DCPower Vehicles / Tools,
expenses supplied. Email: Resumes at keytelecom.net

    And on August 17th Key Telecom signed a one year
contract with "Evolve Technologies" in Surrey BC which
stated that Evolve Technologies will provide its
employees to Key Telecom to work as replacement
workers for Telus at $34 per hour.

    Similar companies that have placed similar ads and
begun recruitment of scabs include: "Millenium Telus
Services of Canada" in Kamloops and Cache Creek,
"Ajlion Communications" through Monster.ca across
Canada, "Neutron Telecommunications," "The Neutron
Group," "The Bell Group," "RMH Call Centre," "Neucomm
International" in the Phillipines, "Faneuil Group" in
Winnipeg, "Adventis Personnel Group Inc." in
Vancouver, and "Immigrant Services Society" - a
government agency that dropped its promotion of scab
work when confronted by the TWU.

    Job fairs organized by Telus have also appeared at
Vancouver universities UBC and SFU. Also targeting
students, Telus keeps a posting on their website for
"Coop Students" to get work experience through Telus.

    On August 29th Telus even issued a press release
bragging of $12Million in contracts through a new
initiative of theirs, "CallCentreAnywhere." This
strike breaking method, made possible through the
technology developed and built by union workers, has
them hiring scores of people ($12Million worth!) to
work in Telus call centres from home.

    The benefits of being a Scab: Selling your soul
for an MP3 player

    Telus is not particular to non-union members in
the recruitment of "replacement workers" for TWU jobs.
They have also launched a campaign to both bribe and
intimidate TWU members back to work, across the picket

    Telus has offered a premium "bonus" of $30 a day
for every worker who crosses the picket line, plus...
a free MP3 player AND a free cell phone! (and don't
worry, if you already have a cell phone, Telus will
pay for it for you!) Also included in this scab
package is a dollar for dollar matching contribution
from Telus for workers who cross the picket line to
buy shares in Telus. That's right! You too can sell
out the struggle of your brothers and sisters at work
for a share in the blood sucking profits of Telus!
Workers in Ontario and across Canada have been told
that if they come to Vancouver to work for Telus as
"replacement workers" they will be paid $35 an hour
PLUS $200 a day to cover room and board costs.

    These higher wages and benefits come from the
company that has refused workers even a penny's wage
increase almost six years, refused to negotiate a
contract with the TWU for four and a half years and
have already locked out their employees for two months
in order to reduce costs by breaking the union and
contracting out jobs for lower wages!

    Threats against union workers

    Honest workers who refuse to cross the picket line
receive a different message. They've been told, by the
CEO, president, vice-president and managers, "The day
will come when the company is going to draw a line in
the sand and after that day, employees who have not
crossed the picket line will be out for a long time."
In small towns in BC and Alberta, company managers
have even approached striking workers' parents to
"warn" them that if their son or daughter does not
return to work then they will not have a job to return
to. One TWU member who was given this message by his
parents gave up and went to work for another company.
Three days later he was told that Telus had contacted
the boss at his new job and had threatened to cut all
business with this smaller company if they hired this
particular worker. He was fired.

    On top of threats and intimidation that honest TWU
members will not have a "job to return to," workers on
the picket line have had to face the 21st Century's
version of the armed gangs of thugs that beat up
strikers in the 1930s. Telus has spared no expense in
hiring one of the most prominent and 'battle tested'
of these gangs: "AFI International," a security firm
whose main business is breaking strikes and busting

    The AFI International home webpage boasts, "Our
core business is focused exclusively on services that
enable employers to manage work stoppages due to
strikes, lockouts or plant closures safely and
securely." Scrolling down the sidebar of this mainpage
is a column that features news about risks of
unionization in different industries and how
capitalists can act to stop them.

    Rather than swinging clubs or shooting strikers,
which would certainly be considered 'over the top' in
today's 'civil society' (at least at this point in
struggle), these thugs are armed with video cameras as
well as conventional weapons. Their tactics focus on
ridiculing, insulting, prodding and provoking
picketers to catch their responses on tape.

    While the Supreme Court has issued strict rulings
restricting the ability of the TWU to picket, the
courts and government have not extended these same
limitations to Telus and Telus's security thugs, who
have routinely provoked picketers with verbal threats
and intimidation and physical assaults. Everywhere
that AFI International goons have been deployed, there
have been arrests of TWU members shortly thereafter
for "assault" and "harassment". The union is then tied
up in court and Telus is armed with more ammunition to
use in slander campaigns against the union. Working
people should not be defensive about these charges of
so-called "assault" and "harassment". To the contrary,
what is needed is a further mobilization of support
from working people in support and defence of the TWU
picketers. The heavier a picketline is with TWU
members and supporters, the more "intimidating" it
will be for scabs to cross, the more easily the
picketers will be able to drive the thug squads away
and the more quickly the lockout will be won.


    At the beginning of September the Communication
Energy and Paper workers union (CEP) announced that it
was taking action against Telus as an unfair employer.
The CEP's refusal to work on jobs for Telus means that
they will block Telus from running ads in the
Vancouver Sun, the Province and eleven other
newspapers in BC. These sorts of solidarity actions
are exactly what are needed to bring more pressure
against Telus and give a clear message to all bosses
that strike breaking and union busting will not be
tolerated by unions or working people.

    From the other side, a grim reminder of the high
stakes of this lockout struggle has emerged. On
September 15th more than 1,100 Hospital Employees
Union (HEU) members walked off the job as their strike
began against Health Care contractor 'Sodexho'.
Sodexho won the privatized health care contract in a
bid from the BC Liberal Government last year. After
thousands of jobs were privatized out in a vicious
attack on the HEU by the provincial government last
year, the workers had to fight to gain representation
by the HEU against their new, private sector bosses.
The attack by the government was made with the intent
to destroy the union, which only survived at all
thanks to a massive labour mobilization. Today
negotiations with Sodexho have been impossible, as
Sodexho has said that the union demands are "far too
high." The demands of the union? Pay raises to reach
$14.90 over a four year contract - pay rates that
would still fall far below the wages that these same
workers made before their jobs were contracted out.

    As the lockout of the TWU passes its second month
mark, the factor of solidarity from other unions and
working and poor people across Canada becomes more and
more critical. All the maneuvering of Telus (hiring
scabs/bribing workers to cross the picketline/bringing
in goon-squads/threatening TWU members jobs/slandering
the union in the media) are the tactics used
throughout history by bosses who are trying to break
unions. The historic and winning response of workers
and unions has been to stand their ground against all
these attacks, and unite and fight harder.

    The original struggles and strikes for the right
to organize and hold unions were won by the entirety
of working and poor people standing together for their
rights against the companies and bosses. In the 1920s
and '30s these strikes were won against tremendous
odds. Today, we are called upon to fight with this
same determination and solidarity again, for the TWU
workers, hospital workers, CBC workers, and all
working people in Canada.





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