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Author Topic: Drawing Lessons from the TWU-Telus Dispute
robbie_dee
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posted 07 December 2005 01:33 PM      Profile for robbie_dee     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Sid Schniad, "Drawing Lessons from the TWU-Telus Dispute, Canadian Dimension 12/01/2005

quote:
For much of the post-war era, workers in the telecommunications sector enjoyed a relatively privileged existence. Working for highly regulated private and public monopolies, they enjoyed wages that were superior to those of other organized workers, as well as job security that allowed them to retire with a decent pension after a lifetime on the job. This relationship began to unravel with the 1984 break-up of AT&T, however. This event proved to be the opening salvo in a series of massive changes that have rocked the sector ever since. In a forerunner of the process that has since come to be known as globalization, the corporate sector forced governments to abandon social oversight of the telecommunications industry and to allow competition in the highly profitable long distance part of the business so that companies could reduce their communications costs and the industry could be reshaped to address their organizational needs.

The cost to telephone workers has been enormous. In the past twenty years, hundreds of thousands of union jobs have been lost from phone company bargaining units. In the same period, telecom corporations have established and purchased major non-union subsidiaries. This upheaval has been reenforced by the advent of unprecedented technological change characterized by the digitalization of the telephone network, the advent of e-mail and the internet, and the birth of the cell phone, which has accelerated the transformation of the industry away from the wireline services that traditionally dominated. To make matters worse for unions in the sector, communications companies have gone all-out to prevent cellular service, which is the fastest and most profitable part of the communications industry, from being unionized.

All of these factors have combined to vastly increase the power of telecom companies relative to that of their unionized employees. Not surprisingly, these companies have used their increased power to take back many of the gains that unionized telephone workers won earlier in the post-war era. The confrontation between the Telus Corporation and the Telecommunications Workers Union can only be adequately understood in the context of this attack.


Read the rest.

For further background, check out the following archived threads here in the Labour forum:

Telus work stoppage

Security Violence on the TWU/Telus Picket Line

TWU/Telus Dispute update

Thoughts?

[ 07 December 2005: Message edited by: robbie_dee ]


From: Iron City | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Nam
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posted 08 December 2005 01:28 AM      Profile for Nam     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
From the article

"But the unionís confidence faded as Telus deployed an unprecedented array of union-busting tools. The company imported thousands of scabs from central and eastern Canada and the States, using them together with a huge number of managers to do TWU membersí work."

Two points should be made here. Telus didn't deploy an "unprecedented array" but rather a run-of-the-mill, well-known, very familiar tactics to help themselves during the strike/lockout. TWU should have anticipated these moves - we've seen them all before. However, my observation is even with a five-year run up to this dispute, TWU did remarkably little education for their members. A membership that isn't schooled in the history, tactics, background etc of labour struggles is one that surely will become dispirited. This leads to my other point.

Despite the article's contention that "thousands" of scabs were imported, locals in Alberta were having over 50% of their membership crossing the line. There wasn't any need to import scabs - thousands of them were right here. My belief is members who become scabs in such large numbers is a symtom of lack of education or a lack of leadership to read the members properly. Remember, the first tentative agreement was rejected by the membership.

[ 08 December 2005: Message edited by: Nam ]


From: Calgary-Land of corporate towers | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
slimpikins
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posted 08 December 2005 01:45 AM      Profile for slimpikins     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
One place where all Unions have failed is in fighting the corporate mindset when it comes to scabs. For some reason, it has become more socially acceptable to scab. Corporations talk about 'choosing' to cross the picket line, and Unions, my own included, talk about 'choosing' to picket. This makes almost no sense to me. I thought we lived in a democracy where the majority decision was to be respected by all.

I look at it like this. I voted for the NDP. We didn't win the election, because we didn't get the most votes. However, I don't have the 'choice' to disregard the Liberals, thier policies, laws, and to not pay my taxes because they weren't my 'choice'. However, corporations try to convince workers that they didn't 'choose' to strike or be locked out so they should come to work. I wonder how things would go if I was to exercise my 'choice' and not pay taxes or obey laws put in by a democratically elected government that I personally didn't vote for.

I work full time for the UFCW, and I know from first hand experience that education and solidarity building has to be an ongoing thing. You can't just step in when you know a strike is coming and start talking about solidarity. You have to work at building it every day. Informing the members about grievances, successes and defeats in daily dealings with the employer will help to build the solidarity that wins contracts. While I was working at Cargill Foods in High River, we worked as hard as we could at building solidarity and stressing that we had to stick together or we were sitting ducks. We had a strike vote last February, and we voted 93% in favour of striking, after voting down the employers 'final' offer by 71%. There were 22% of the workers who were happy with the proposed contract, yet they voted to strike because they knew that they needed to show solidarity to win. Cargill came back to the table and we were successful at getting the gains that we were after.


From: Alberta | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged
Grover
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posted 08 December 2005 11:40 AM      Profile for Grover     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I look at it like this. I voted for the NDP. We didn't win the election, because we didn't get the most votes. However, I don't have the 'choice' to disregard the Liberals, thier policies, laws, and to not pay my taxes because they weren't my 'choice'. However, corporations try to convince workers that they didn't 'choose' to strike or be locked out so they should come to work. I wonder how things would go if I was to exercise my 'choice' and not pay taxes or obey laws put in by a democratically elected government that I personally didn't vote for.

Yes, you do have the 'choice' to break those laws. However, should you choose to break them, you may suffer consequences for doing so, such as fines, probation and prison time. Those consequences deter people from making the choice to break the law.

Similarly, members do have a 'choice' to cross the picket line. What are the consequences of doing so? They get a pay cheque instead of strike pay. Maybe after the strike is over they get snubbed by those who stayed the course. That doesn't seem like much of an incentive to picket instead of work.

Edited to add: I'm not promoting scabbing, just trying to point out what behaiviours get reinforced with the way the system is set up. To stop people from crossing the line, they need to see and understand how it is better for them not to.

[ 08 December 2005: Message edited by: Grover ]


From: On the pacific | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
scooter
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posted 08 December 2005 12:20 PM      Profile for scooter     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The union did a poor job of handle the different concerns of the BC and Alberta members. Their failure lead to most Alberta workers crossing the picket line while most BC workers stayed out on the line.

I do hate seeing people being dehumanized with the word scab. I wish people would be more enlightened on this web site and avoid using the term.


From: High River | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged
Nam
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posted 08 December 2005 12:51 PM      Profile for Nam     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by scooter:
The union did a poor job of handle the different concerns of the BC and Alberta members. Their failure lead to most Alberta workers crossing the picket line while most BC workers stayed out on the line.

I do hate seeing people being dehumanized with the word scab. I wish people would be more enlightened on this web site and avoid using the term.


No, I consider myself enlightened and use the word scab. Scabs are scabs - they are not replacement workers. If you believe using the term scab is dehumanizing, I counter that being a scab is to dehumanize one's self.

As for the split between B.C. and Alberta, I think (and I hope someone here could confirm) Telus in B.C. didn't bother to try to continue many operations, and so TWU members had little ability to scab. Telus was bright enough to know if they tried to run operations fullscale in B.C., they would have likely been unsuccessful because of the greater solidarity of those TWU members and the greater solidarity of the broader B.C. community.


From: Calgary-Land of corporate towers | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
robbie_dee
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posted 09 December 2005 11:47 AM      Profile for robbie_dee     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Scabs.
From: Iron City | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
lagatta
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posted 09 December 2005 11:49 AM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
This is a progressive, prolabour board. Scabs are scabs.

If I were writing a "factual" piece in a mainstream paper, I'd use "strikebreakers". Replacement worker is an insult to any temp filling in for someone on sick or maternity leave.


From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
robbie_dee
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posted 09 December 2005 12:00 PM      Profile for robbie_dee     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
If people are ok with it, I would like to redirect discussion about the word "scab" to the link I posted above, and keep this thread for discussing the Schniad article.

[ 09 December 2005: Message edited by: robbie_dee ]


From: Iron City | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Anarchonostic
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posted 09 December 2005 02:14 PM      Profile for Anarchonostic     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Good article. I'll agree with the sentiment above, that the main force in this dispute was the scabs in Alberta. And while they are to blame for the significant weakening of our CA; we as the TWU are to blame for not foreseeing the mood of the members in Alberta.

I asked 'why the lack of foresight?' to the VP of the TWU, Peter Massey, at our last local meeting. He explained that they really thought that Alberta had solidarity, since at large-scale meetings before the lockout in Alberta, the mood was they were ready to go out. I don't know what it is - that members changed their minds or that scabs didn't attend those meetings (I lean towards the latter).

The union's executive had foreseen the shifting of call-centre work to Ontario, Quebec and overseas during the dispute. But we've failed to read the pulse in Alberta, and we failed to ensure solidarity with the TWU there. Did the TWU get too complacent in BC, and forgot outreach to former IBEW members in Alberta? I don't know. There still was a very high strike vote a year and a half ago.

All I can do is move ahead, try to convince younger employees to get involved, lobby for an action-plan for members east of the Rockies, and attempt to convince the TWU to become a more political (NDP affiliation?) organism.

Right now, the TWU's focus is on trying to put out the fires that sprung from the implementation of the CA; most importantly, the placement of workers from the closing offices in Victoria and Vancouver. Even though we had the company's assurance that any employee who lost their job through these closures would have the opportunity to stay with TELUS, the replacement jobs being offered are enough for only a third (so far). And most of those are unsuitable for people in their 50's. So there's that.

Oh, and regarding scabs: if you're going to cross the line to do my job, at least do it right. I've wasted a lot of time in the last two weeks cleaning up incompetent or dangerous scabwork.


From: Vancouver | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged

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