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United Steelworkers union Local 1944 Unit 60, which represents the workers in Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey and Langley, B.C. said Monday that the company had locked out the workers, after the union informed Rogers about its plans to begin rotating strikes on Monday.
“The primary issue is job security, through jurisdictional language. Rogers is looking to expand contractors into those roles which will, we feel lead to the erosion of our members jobs,” Jayson Little, a USW staff representative told BNNBloomberg.ca in an emailed statement on Monday.
A spokesperson for Rogers told BNNBloomberg.ca on Monday that the company has been left with “no choice” but to lock out the workers due to uncertainty.
“Following the union’s notice of rotating strikes and refusal to provide clarity on their job action, we’ve reluctantly taken this step to ensure we can continue to carry out our critical work for our customers without interruption,” Cam Gordon said in an emailed statement.
Little said in a press release from the union Monday that the decision to lock out workers was a “poor way to re-introduce the company back into Western Canada.” He said the decision will impact the union’s members but will also “have damaging impacts on the communities Rogers services.”
“Rogers may say this is in the best interest of their customers, but what’s really in everyone’s best interests is to reach a negotiated settlement by ending the lockout and getting back to the table,” the union said in a written statement.
Central to the dispute are allegations from the union that the company is proposing to increase its use of contractors.
Rogers denies those allegations, and told BNNBloomberg.ca that it presented the union with a proposal that “would grow the units and protect jobs.”
“It’s really disappointing the union responded with a strike notice and is misrepresenting facts. Our team is eager to get back to the table and reach a negotiated settlement that meets the needs of our employees and customers,” spokerperson Gordon said.
In the strike notice Friday, Little said the union was “disappointed and frustrated” with Rogers’ actions in the bargaining process.
“Our members refuse to accept a deal where they will likely lose their jobs while contractors do the work they perform. The latest offer from Rogers is a shameful attack on our members, their families and the communities Rogers serves,” Little said in the written statement.
Gordon said the union’s assertions that Rogers is proposing to increase its use of contractors are untrue.
“The large majority of the work is done by our employees, and we’re not replacing technicians with contractors or increasing our reliance on contractors,” he said.
Rogers said its offer contains language which would increase the number of installers by just under 10 per cent, as well as “backfill vacated roles with full-time employees, when there is work available.”
“We also have language in our offer to ensure contractors cannot perform any of the work being performed by installers, in the event of any layoffs. This would prevent laying off Installers and contracting out their work,” spokesperson Gordon said.
The 300 technicians are former Shaw technicians who were absorbed by Rogers following the Rogers-Shaw acquisition earlier this year. The group of workers provides support for internet, phone and television services across the B.C. Lower Mainland.
With files from the Canadian Press