thumb-2023-011-04-rogers-union-scabs This article is more than 6 months old

Rogers Locked Out 300 Workers in British Columbia. The Union Says They Replaced Them With Scabs.

Labour unions continue to press the federal government to finally pass anti-scab legislation in Canada

Unionized Rogers Communications technicians are currently locked out in Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey and Langley, British Columbia while the telecommunications giant uses scab labour to fill their jobs

The United Steelworkers union (USW) Local 1944 have been without a contract since March, and members voted in favour of going on strike in September.

According to the union, “Rogers began to use scab labour to fill the overtime needs” just days after the union announced intentions to initiate a series of rotating strikes and after the union asked workers to limit overtime.

In a statement, Rogers Canada insists they asked the union to return to the table but never heard back. The company also did not explicitly deny using scab labour while employees are locked-out.

“We’ve activated our contingency plans so we can continue to carry out our critical work for our customers and meet their needs without interruption,” a Rogers spokesperson told PressProgress. “This includes redeploying employees and contractors.”

The union says the “contingency plan” relies on scab labour.

“We stopped doing overtime with them so they started using scabs to respond to that work. And now that we’ve been locked out, it’s 100% a scab work force, in Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby and Langley,” USW staff representative Jayson Little told PressProgress.

“I can’t help but think that if anti-scab legislation does get tabled this week, we wouldn’t be in this position if they couldn’t use a replacement workforce. Unfortunately, the delays in getting that legislation passed has found us in this circumstance where they’re allowing scabs to do our work.”

The federal Minister of Labour committed to bringing in anti-scab legislation prior to the end of 2023, which would prohibit the use of replacement workers during labour disputes. Canada’s largest unions, including CUPE, Unifor, PSAC and USW, have put pressure on the federal government to follow through on this promise.

Little says the main issue in contract negotiations is the employer’s attempt to erode historic language in their collective agreement in relation to the contracting out of jurisdictional jobs.

“Jurisdictional lines have always been sort of the no go zone for contractors, (but) at this point, Rogers has a mandate to expand contractor use into all facets of our work. And of course, we see that as the eventual erosion of our jobs.”

After the Rogers and Shaw merger became official, the company claimed the merger would create 3,000 new jobs in Western Canada.

“At a time when Rogers needs to consider the long-term well-being of its workers and the communities it serves, they are breaking trust by not upholding their agreement to the federal government that it must create 3,000 new jobs in Western Canada through the Rogers-Shaw merger,” Scott Lunny, USW Director for Western Canada, said in a press release.

“We know the government didn’t agree to the contracting out of jobs through the merger and Rogers needs to do what’s right to protect and expand stable jobs, so let’s get back to the bargaining table and get contracting-out language off the table,” added Lunny.

A Rogers spokesperson said that the company is not increasing the number of contractors, but instead using employees to “backfill” roles.

“We’re not replacing technicians with contractors or increasing our reliance on contractors. Our offer includes language that would grow the number of Installers by close to 10% and backfill vacated roles with full-time employees, when there is work available,” a Rogers spokesperson told PressProgress in a statement.

However, Little says the employer is off base.

“Rogers does rely on contractors and our members for the majority of the work. However two areas are strictly off limits to contractors —service and maintenance, ” Little explained.

“Rogers advised us that they could contract out 100% of all the work except those two areas. They now want to expand the contractor’s ability to do service work and are now limiting the scope of maintenance duties. That could potentially lead to, in their own words—contracting out everything except this ‘new’ definition of maintenance.”

Little adds that the union is willing to go back to the table and get an agreement, but it is not willing to compromise on jurisdictional issues in relation to contractors.

“Our members are feeling strong. They’re feeling that they’re doing the right thing. By holding the line they’ve recognized that this language is important to them to maintain their jobs now and for years into the future.”

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Rumneek Johal
Rumneek Johal is PressProgress' BC Reporter. Her reporting focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism.

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