With Many Employees Already Near Poverty Line, Freedom Mobile Threatens Lockout of Windsor Workers
WINDSOR, Ont. – Freedom Mobile, owned by telecom giant Shaw Communications, has threatened to lock out its call centre employees in Windsor next Friday, September 22.
Freedom Mobile’s threat to lock out employees comes on the heels of its refusal to improve a collective agreement offer that was firmly rejected by those employees in a vote held Aug. 10.
After an all-day meeting Thursday in Toronto convened by the federal labour board’s mediation service, Freedom refused to improve its substandard offer. Issues remaining in dispute are wage increases, seniority recognition and vacation rights.
Many of Freedom’s Windsor bargaining unit employees earn wages that are near the poverty line. At the same time, Shaw’s corporate executives are well-known for their lavish compensation packages.
The median hourly pay in the Windsor bargaining unit is $13.68. For context, Shaw CEO Bradley Shaw’s total 2015 compensation was $13.1 million – the equivalent of $6,718 an hour – 491 times the median hourly wage.
Meanwhile, many Windsor residents, including some Freedom employees, are still recovering from damages they suffered recently due to flooding of their homes.
Freedom’s call centre employees joined the United Steelworkers (USW) in January, winning their vote in the face of an aggressive effort by Freedom and Shaw to undermine their organizing drive.
“This company is choosing the low road and the public should know it,” said Lee Riggs, President of TWU, USW National Local 1944. “Freedom told us that it wants to remain a low-cost operator. Yet its top executives rake in tremendous incomes.”
Despite a past statement about maintaining Shaw call centre jobs in Canada, Freedom Mobile has call centre operations in Egypt and the Philippines.
“Comfortable Shaw executives in Calgary are menacing low-paid Windsor employees with a threatened lockout – it is outrageous. Freedom is building a bad name for itself in the eyes of hard-working people in Canada,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann. “Windsor deserves better treatment than this.”
During Thursday’s mediation session, Freedom took the position that it expected the union to “remain silent” about the position its members might take on this matter. “Freedom’s offer shows it does not value its employees’ work, and the corporate demand that the union remain silent shows it does not respect their opinions,” said Riggs.
Over the next few days the union will consider options and engage membership input about next steps and actions.
For further information:
Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Lee Riggs, President, TWU, USW National Local 1944, 604-230-0553
Bryan Adamczyk, USW Staff Representative, 647-234-0466, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, email@example.com