“WHEN IS ENOUGH……..ENOUGH?”
On Tuesday February 28th, Bell demonstrated its apathy toward its workers by sending out a poorly worded and confusing email to "all Atlantic team members eligible for post-retirement benefits " announcing they are terminating the OPEBs (Other Post-Employment Benefits) or as they refer to them PRB (Post-Retirement Benefits) after April 1, 2019. Bell did this without any discussion with Unifor ACL (Council), and at a time when we are supposed to be starting negotiations for a new Collective Agreement.
In September, 2016, Bell and the Council both agreed that the (IBN) Interest Based Negotiations format used in CIF (Common Interest Forum) was not producing results due to the Bell corporate structure. Therefore it was decided to return to a traditional bargaining model with the goal of working collaboratively to obtain a new Collective Agreement. The first round of negotiations was supposed to begin in January 2017. Due to scheduling difficulties with the Bell bargaining team, those negotiations were postponed to February. Bell has since cancelled both the February meetings along with the second set of meetings scheduled for the week of March 20th. Now the first bargaining session has been re-scheduled for the week of April 24th.
This latest announcement of "stripping away our OPEBs" follows an earlier announcement from March 2016, of changes to the early retirement options to our DB pension plan. These unilateral, arbitrary, un-negotiated decisions by Bell have many people questioning if this is a form of "third party" or "bad faith bargaining". These questions have been referred to our Unifor National legal department for clarification. This latest proclamation by Bell is similar to the Bell Aliant decision in 2006 that reduced our full retirement benefit to the current $1000 per year OPEBs amount we currently receive.
Unifor ACL sees your OPEBs as deferred wages that members have worked their careers and taken concessions for over the years to obtain and we will not stand idly by and let Bell take them away without a fight.
Since Bell purchased Bell Aliant in 2014 they have continuously attacked our workforce in Atlantic Canada. They have shown that they do not value the hard work and the dedication unionized workforce here in Atlantic or how much they contribute to their very profitable bottom line, but would rather engage in a fight to squeeze more profits from you, the workers.
Make no mistake the upcoming negotiations with Bell are not going to be easy, and members should be prepared for a long and contentious round of bargaining. In the next few weeks the Council will be sending out another message to the unionized members in which we will be detailing ways that you can help the Unifor ACL bargaining team during those bargaining sessions, and send a message to Bell that the Atlantic unionized workforce is an important and viable part of this company.
Unifor ACL Council