Acting President’s Message – August 19, 2020

August 19, 2020 - As summer starts to think about winding down, we reflect on what kind of summer, and in fact, what kind of year it has been up until now, and what lays ahead for the rest of 2020 and beyond. While COVID-19 has certainly thrown a massive-sized wrench into our daily lives and the lives of our families, friends and communities and continues to do so, we stand united in a common purpose; the health and wellbeing of each other.

Since March, COVID-19 has put our lives on a more careful, less secure track. Rather than focusing on bold plans for the future, people have been largely just trying to keep safe, hold on to what they have, and get by. Our Union too has been dealt blows by COVID-19. Some of our action plans needed to be put on hold, and our way of doing business and of communicating with members has had to adapt quickly. Even our interactions with our employers shifted, for a time, from being centred on the usual butting heads over excessive discipline, unrealistic stats, etcetera, and towards working together to make sure all of our members are safe first and foremost; and second, could indeed work. The Union and our employers made gains working together, adapting quickly to the crisis using cooperation and flexibility.

However, at some point a crisis is no longer a crisis, it’s just hard times. As Telus and Shaw began to adapt to the new normal, we saw some of the old normal creeping back into their behaviour.

On May 5, 2020, Shaw laid off 37 workers when they wouldn’t take packages. This was again done in a manner violating our Collective Agreements, similar to their actions on November 8, 2016, when they laid off 54 workers. To make things worse, this time they’ve thrown members and their families into the storm of a COVID-19 ravaged economy. We have grieved these layoffs.

Telus has not eased up on pressuring their employees during these difficult times, in fact, our recent COVID-19 survey indicates the opposite: When asked “Is there the same, more, or less pressure to meet productivity metrics?” 39.9% of respondents said there was MORE pressure, while 18.2% said less pressure and the rest said it was about the same. Shame! As if our mental health wasn’t suffering enough. Almost a full 40% said, “more”, when Telus said they would be better during these unprecedented times and that they understood the pressures and anxiety their employees were facing. Their audio clearly was not, and is still not aligning with their video.

Notwithstanding their declaration of empathy and allyship, we noticed that discipline was ramping up again and, in some cases, with far-reaching accusations, assertions and actions against our members. One un-compromising position taken by Telus was not allowing members to take office chairs home for ergonomic reasons. Moreover, a member’s “Thank You” poster to their coworkers was taken off the door of a Central Office as it was “Union materials”. The more our employers adapted, the more they seemed to be getting back to their old habits of aggressions even if sometimes only subtle and the impact not felt by all.

As distracted as we all are with COVID-19, with a difficult economy, the way our family dynamics and needs have changed, especially if we have children at home, we need to be mindful that our employers have not fundamentally changed. Only through solidarity can we show enough force, as the folks that make the wheels turn, that we can get fair treatment at work.

And the clock is ticking.

Telus bargaining starts in late 2021, and we’re mobilizing now. Unit meetings are being held throughout September and October at which, for the first time in our Local’s history, members will be nominating candidates for election to the USW 1944 - Telus Bargaining Committee via a “one member – one vote” electronic ballot which will occur November 20th of this year. Instead of a Bargaining Committee elected at Convention from among Convention Delegates, you can run for your Bargaining Committee, and you will be voting for your Bargaining Committee. Grassroots like never before. Details on this process will be released later this week. 

Also at the September and October Unit Meetings, members will be nominating candidates for election as their Unit’s Local Union Delegated Meeting delegate(s) via a “one member – one vote” electronic ballot which will also occur November 20th of this year. Grassroots activism continues with this process. Details on this process will be released later this week as well. 

Later in the fall, we will be looking for resolutions for the next Local Union Delegated Meeting slated to take place in Vancouver on March 16-18, 2021. More to come.

We have done a lot lately to crank up activity and communication, including a big uptick in membership surveys with individualized responses, texting prior to Unit meetings, and Executive Board member attendance at Unit meetings. We are engaged and are engaging members in new and as well as in tried and true ways. Much more is coming soon, including the first official campaign of the Project for United Membership Action, virtual steward training with a brand-new curriculum, improved material for new hire orientations, Unit Chair and Unit Secretary Manuals, and a new technological platform that is currently being piloted by activists from across the country, and maybe even a special something in the mail for you soon. But the most important part is you, your use of these new resources, and your participation in these actions is key. We have enjoyed a huge increase in Unit meeting attendance in the last few months, and we need that momentum to continue through the fall to continue laying the groundwork to take on our employers. 

We need your participation, including holding me and my team to account. We know that we work for you and are in service to you. Challenge us, engage with us, give us your ideas and perhaps one of them may very well be the game changer we’ve been working toward. Let’s rise up build solidarity and activism amongst us, keeping our eye on the prize. Let’s be in it to win it, together, united, fierce, bold, and ready to battle, together. 

In Solidarity, 

Donna Hokiro
Acting President