The islands’ four Telus employees are off the job and walking picket lines along with their 13,000 counterparts in BC and Alberta, after a five-year contract negotiation process broke down on July 21.
The Telecommunications Workers’ Union is taking job action after finding Telus’s “final offer” on wages and benefits unsatisfactory.
Telus installation and repair employee Brad Schultz is picketing outside the BC Tel office at Skidegate Landing with a sign reading “The Future is NOT Friendly” – a play on the corporation’s slogan. From Mr. Schultz’s perspective, wages are just one issue among many.
“We try to do a good job, and we’d just like a little appreciation from Telus,” he said. It’s a small community, he added, which means that they often go “above and beyond the call of duty,” working late and through the night. For example, when the bank machines don’t work, it affects everyone, he said.
In addition, he said that they are continually moved around – with expectations that they will be in Sandspit and then in Masset, all in one day. “It’s hard on families,” said Mr. Schultz.
Telecommunications technology is also changing very rapidly, and Telus has been slow in providing additional training to keep the islands’ employees up to speed, he said. They offer online training, but it’s the kind of course that you can’t fail.
Recently, the number of Telus employees on island was dramatically cut from nine down to four. Mr. Schultz says that with this new reality, they are severely understaffed.
“Four would just about be adequate,” he said, but people get sick, go on holiday, or get called out.
The Telus website says that they are ‘focussing on customer service,’ but meanwhile, the waiting list for phone installations and repairs is growing. And Mr. Schultz anticipates that the lockout could last until the new year.
“They are bound and determined to break up the union,” he said, and will do anything to have it their way.
When long distance and internet were wiped out after an accident in Skidegate on Tuesday, a non-union contract team of workers were flown in from Terrace. But that was a special situation, because of the size of the problem. Mr. Schultz said that if there are a critical mass of complaints, they might fly someone up to deal with it, but single complaints or new installations will simply not be dealt with.
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