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TEAM Collective Agreement Bulletin

Employees Key to One Hundred Year Anniversary

This month we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Manitoba Telecom Services, a significant and noteworthy achievement for any company.  Like all achievements, this didn’t just happen.  A significant contributor to this achievement is the hard work, dedication, and commitment to service and innovation from past and present generations of Manitoban’s on the Company’s payroll.  There is a collective pride in our accomplishments over the last one hundred years in developing an extraordinary telecommunications company that for most of those years was seen as an employer of choice in Manitoba.  For over a third of the Company’s existence TEAM has represented MTS managers’ interests, and has been there through some of the most significant socioeconomic and technological changes of the past 100 years.

It is disappointing that over the last few years we have experienced a striking shift in the balance of employee welfare to raw profit.  Many employees express a declining level of respect for the work they do; workers are being told to do more with less, restrictions on training, increasing stress levels, layoffs, outsourcing, and pension concerns have all contributed to an environment of uncertainty and instability.

The inability to achieve a new Collective Agreement after nearly a year of bargaining speaks to this changing environment, with the Company now in a situation where over 3,000 Manitoba employees are without new Collective Agreements.

As MTS moves into its next century, and TEAM into its 36th year, we sincerely hope that the labour relations issues will soon be behind us and we can move forward so that all employees can focus fully on a bright and fulfilling future in their careers with MTS Allstream.

Bargaining Update

TEAM had hoped that MTS senior management would want to recommence the talks that took place between the two parties before the holidays and continue moving toward a tentative Collective Agreement.  In a recent communiqué to the Company, TEAM indicated its desire to return to talks around the outstanding issues, and failing that, for them to share with TEAM the Company’s plans for achieving a new Collective Agreement.  TEAM is currently waiting for a response from the Company.

TEAM’s Unfair Labour Complaint Now Involves All Three Unions

The MTS response to the Labour Board states that they did no wrong.  TEAM responded by filing additional documents reinforcing our position that the Company’s actions were inappropriate and “Unfair”.  The Canada Labour Board recognized TEAM’s assertion that pension related matters are bigger than just TEAM, and therefore added CEP and IBEW to the Unfair Labour Complaint as interested parties.

CEP and IBEW have written the Labour Board to confirm their status in the pension lawsuit, and to inform the Board that MTS has also tabled the DC in their respective negotiations.

Contractor Grievance Preliminary Hearing Tomorrow

Tomorrow’s hearing will answer the question “Did TEAM have a Right to terminate the contractor Letter of Understanding?”.  Watch this space!

TEAM is not fighting for the outright elimination of contractors in MTS Allstream.  We see their value in meeting business needs, but this cannot and indeed should not, be at the expense of employees. 

Collective Agreement Termination

It is not unusual for employers to give notice, after conciliation ends, that the terms and conditions of the Collective Agreement will be suspended.  What this means is that the statutory “freeze” under the Canada Labour Code has ended, and the employer is trying to increase pressure on the union, by perhaps no longer remitting dues or participating in committees, etc.  An employer could even alter the terms and conditions of employment upon suspension of the Collective Agreement.  Typically, employers focus on dues but may even unilaterally implement what they had tabled during bargaining.  The employer, however, continues to be bound by its statutory obligations – it must continue to bargain in good faith, it cannot discriminate under Human Rights legislation, it must honour bereavement leave, overtime, vacation pay, and other statutory requirements.

The legal effect of a suspension of the Collective Agreement is that each individual is deemed to have their own agreement with the employer incorporating the terms and conditions of the Collective Agreement into their individual contract.  Typically any issues or disputes that might arise after the suspension of the Collective Agreement will be dealt with as part of the memorandum of agreement that ushers in a new Collective Agreement.  In other words, the parties would agree to deal with any such issues, perhaps by arbitration or by some other mechanism.

Finally, in the event of disputes during the suspension of the Collective Agreement, individuals could also access the courts alleging breach of an individual’s contract with the employer.

We need to recognize, however, that what is really going on is an effort by management to try to put pressure on you and your Union to agree to the DC pension plan.  We are disappointed that management would seek to coerce your agreement to such a DC plan and by such methods.

Moving Forward

TEAM is hopeful that the Company bargaining team will return to the table for further discussions, however if the Company opts to pursue a combative approach then TEAM, along with the support of the larger labour movement is prepared to respond.  We will continue to pursue avenues both within the labour courts and the civil courts as required.

We are continuing to work closely with CEP and IBEW who are also working to secure new Collective Agreements and are facing similar issues to those that TEAM members are facing.  We are developing a new campaign timeline and strategy that can be implemented in the event the Company takes action that is to the detriment of the members.  The role of TEAM members will be crucial in the months ahead, and through the Communication Action Network we will maintain the lines of communication, information exchange and grow member involvement further.  Your participation has demonstrated to the Company that the issues in bargaining are far more important to their employees than they had anticipated coming into negotiations.

We are confident that we will be able to secure a Collective Agreement that meets both the needs of our members and that of the Company.  We look forward to securing a tentative agreement that we can take to a ratification vote with the recommendation of your bargaining committee.

Thank you for your support,

Your TEAM Bargaining Committee