Telus lockout
September 27, 2005 3:41 PM   Subscribe

How do the locked out Telus employees here in western Canada expect to win? What's their endgame? As I can tell, the inclination for the employer to settle is nil. Revenue is still flowing, only wage expenses are zero, with the exception of management.

My phone and internet still work, I pay for them every month since the dispute started, Telus hasn't had to pay any salaries since thety locked out the staff. I don't understand how the employees ever hope to go back to work. And as a follow up, if everything works fine with zero staff, why have any staff at all?
posted by Keith Talent to Work & Money (13 answers total)
The operative word in your equation is "still". You had internet before they went on strike, you still have it, everything's fine. But while their existing customers are doing okay (until something goes wrong), potential new customers aren't really getting service, limiting their opportunities to expand revenue.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:53 PM on September 27, 2005

The same thing is happened (or happened?) in Ontario.

Eventually there will be too many backlogged phone installs / disconnects for the company to deal with without the CRTC stepping in and making demands of Telus, IMHO. At that point something might happen.

And then there's the emergency contract business repairs that can't get done on time costing Telus penalty costs, etc.

They've got plenty of good reasons to get things back into tip top shape.
posted by shepd at 3:57 PM on September 27, 2005

Response by poster: I understand that, that the employer only has the upper hand until things begin to breakdown. With Autumn storm season approaching, and trees falling down on lines, the employees may find themselves in a better position. But the loss of revenue from new customers is negligble. Everyone already has phone service, most people have the internet. The loss of increased revenue is offset to a far greater degree by eliminating the (assumably) single largest expense, the payroll.
posted by Keith Talent at 4:01 PM on September 27, 2005

Everyone already has phone service, most people have the internet.

Almost 500,000 homes are sold yearly in Canada, each one of them requiring TWO telephone disconnects/reconnects. Add in university/college students and you can imagine this isn't as small a problem as it seems.
posted by shepd at 4:13 PM on September 27, 2005

in the united states, i believe there are large fines if phone service goes down (wasn't there a brouhaha with a bad y2k patch a few years back that took down long distance service for the entire west coast or something?). i don't know if that's the case in canada, but if so, the moment a major system crashes, telus is in big trouble.
posted by clarahamster at 4:20 PM on September 27, 2005

I sell homes in Calgary and have many clients who, after moving into their new house, simply cancel their Telus number and sign up for a new one through Shaw. Telus can't provide decent times (you will wait for weeks and your appointment will be an 8 hour window) for installs, repairs and most unbelievably cannot even release existing numbers for Shaw to take over.
posted by jeffmik at 4:30 PM on September 27, 2005

Wage expenses aren't zero. Telus has had to bribe employees to cross the picket line, sometimes at double their old salary. I'm working with a woman who is temping while on strike. She was offered double time, a meal allowance every day, a $500 gift certificate at Future Shop and a parking spot to come back and work some cruddy admin job.

Telus is probably spending just as much on payroll as they were before the strike/lockout/whatever. Telus upper management is currently running on a flywheel of spite. They don't have to settle until everything breaks down or until a mediator orders a settlement.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:43 PM on September 27, 2005

doesn't getting bribed now mean you're booted from the union later?
posted by heeeraldo at 6:47 PM on September 27, 2005

But couldn't Telus just hire scabs or contractors to fix the big systems?
posted by acoutu at 7:35 PM on September 27, 2005

I'm also curious about the original question: what's the union's plan?

On the face of it, they don't have much to gain by prolonging the strike on one hand, and essentially refusing to compromise on any of their original positions, some of which are several years old. Right off the bat the union appears intractable.

In spite of the service problems, Telus is entrenched here, and short of a court decision they're not going to give in. Telus also claims that the wage offer on the table is the most generous in the North American telecom industry.

Finally, Telus is flexible enough, and has the balls to just carry on, outsourcing as they go. The union has said in the past that outsourcing was one of the things they wanted an agreement on, and yet continuing the strike is going to drive Telus to send work to its partners in the Philippines and Indonesia. (I understand this is already in progress.)

What was the point again?

Supplementary question: why is there so little information about this in the local (let's say Canadian) media?
posted by sneebler at 8:24 PM on September 27, 2005

It isn't sensationalist enough to get media coverage at the best of times. On top of that the CBC is locked out, and CTV (aka Bell Globemedia) isn't about to cover it for obvious reasons.

Telecommunications costs are on the fast track down. The union is probably making a last ditch effort to establish some territory with whatever strength it has left. After all, if they are in as weak a position as sneebler suggests, they really haven't got anything to lose...

Another aspect of the minimal media coverage... If people had any idea how little telecommunication services actually cost to provide they would exert a lot more pressure on prices. Look at the debate about municipal wifi in the US, with providers trying to ban it and all that...
posted by Chuckles at 10:42 PM on September 27, 2005

Well for one thing, around 50% of workers in the Alberta bargaining unit have crossed the picket line (if you trust the Telus numbers. The union disputes the percentage, but clearly it's a significant number.) So if half their employees are working, at double their usual rate of pay... there's certainly not zero wage expenses.

Voices for Change is the website that the union has set up for their members to get information and discuss the issues with each other. Probably going directly to the Union is a better source for discovering their plans than us speculating.

But couldn't Telus just hire scabs or contractors to fix the big systems? - acoutu

The only province in Canada with anti-scab legislation is Quebec. So yes, Telus can hire scabs to do the work their employees are supposed to. It will probably cost them more than if they paid their own workers to do it (if you were a private contractor and knew you had a big company in crisis wouldn't you price gouge take full advantage?) and the response time might not be there, but of course they can hire someone else to do it.
posted by raedyn at 8:52 AM on September 28, 2005

That's not the union's website.

That's a website belonging to some members of the union.
posted by Sallyfur at 11:42 PM on September 28, 2005

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