The company will also contract out more installation work and get rid of subsidized health and medical benefits for retirees, company spokesperson Alyson Queen said Thursday. “Cost reduction is a necessity,” she said.
The cutbacks were prompted by the union’s decision in June not to ratify a proposed early collective agreement that would have provided workers with job and benefit security in exchange for wage concessions, Queen said. “It was always clear there were two paths,” she said.
She added the measures are all within the boundaries of the company’s collective agreement with the CEP Atlantic Communications Council, which represents Bell Aliant workers in Atlantic Canada. That agreement remains in effect until Dec. 31, 2011.
Bell Aliant president and CEO Karen Sheriff said at that time the company was disappointed by the union’s decision and would move ahead with alternative ways of reducing and managing costs.
“In our current competitive climate, we believe the proposed agreement offered balance between job security for our employees and the cost stability the company needs to ensure future success,” she said.
Queen said no decision has been made on which of the five contact centres, which employ 1,100 workers in Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton, Saint John and Mount Pearl, will be closed.
“We’re not announcing details,” she said.
The decision on the cuts will be made in the fall and the closures will be implemented in 2011, she said. The increase in contracting out of fibre optics installation will begin immediately, while the benefit cuts will take effect on Dec. 31, 2010.
Queen said Bell Aliant’s benefits have “always been ahead of the curve” but the company had to bring its costs in line with other businesses. Officials with Nova Scotia local 2289 of the CEP Atlantic Communications Council couldn’t be reached but the union confirmed the cuts in a message to members on its website Thursday.
“Earlier today, the company announced its plans to cut costs following the rejection of the recently proposed tentative agreement,” it said. “These initiatives include increased contracting out, contact centre closures, additional consolidation and the elimination of the (Other Post Employment Benefits) program.”
The union said a meeting with the company to discuss ways to prevent the cuts that was scheduled for Aug. 3 and 4 has been pushed up to July 26 and 27.
“We understand that this is a very stressful and uncertain time for all members. We will do everything in our power to mitigate the impact of this announcement. We will keep you posted on any and all developments.”
Bell Aliant, which operates in six provinces, is one of North America’s largest regional communications providers. Its xwave division offers professional IT and advanced technology services.
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