Update: No layoffs or closures, says buyer of 21 Bell stations in B.C.

Earlier story:

The Canadian Press, Feb. 8

A massive selloff and restructuring at one of Canada’s biggest media firms means changes are coming to the airwaves in Northwest B.C.

Bell Canada is cutting nine per cent of its workforce, including layoffs at its media division, where it is selling off 45 of its 103 regional radio stations.

CHTK in Prince Rupert, CKTK in Kitimat, and both CFTK and CJFW in Terrace are among the 21 B.C. stations being sold off, along with more in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

The B.C. markets are being acquired by Vista Radio, which operates 49 radio stations in three provinces and the Northwest Territories, including stations in B.C. communities in the the Cariboo, the Kootenays and on Vancouver Island.

Bell announced Thursday in an open letter signed by chief executive Mirko Bibic that 4,800 jobs “at all levels of the company” would be cut.

Some employees have already been notified or were to be informed Thursday of being laid off, while the balance will be told by the spring.

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Unifor response:

Bell axes workers while lining pockets of shareholders

TORONTO – Unifor is outraged about today’s announcement from Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. (BCE Inc.) to cut 4,800 jobs – 9% of its workforce – affecting 800 of the union’s members, while deliberately putting shareholders ahead of workers with increased dividend payouts.

“This is absolutely devastating news for thousands of workers and their families. Adding insult to injury, the company is conducting this mass layoff while increasing dividends to shareholders and buying back shares,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne.

“Executives and shareholders are doing just fine while our members are being thrown out of work, including once again in the media. Our union does not accept the use of government policy changes as a smokescreen to justify the company’s actions,” said Payne.

Bell has been a beneficiary of the Government of Canada’s support for the domestic telecommunications and media industries, allowing the company to become a telecommunications giant in Canada.

Of the 800 Unifor members, the vast majority come from the telecommunications sector, who are largely workers responsible for keeping Canadians connected, with 100 workers coming from the media sector.

The company is also cancelling the noon news broadcasts on all CTV stations, except in Toronto, and its dinner and evening weekend newscasts on all CTV and CTV2 stations, except in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. The loss of local news across Canada is devastating to our country and our democracy.

This is the largest mass layoff by the company in 30 years and delivered at a time when the company is on sound financial footing, able to continuously raise dividends year-over-year during the past decade and buy back shares which helps to feather the nests of shareholders and executives.

While Bell continues to pass the buck, blaming the federal government and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s slow roll to provide financial relief for media companies through The Online News Act (Bill C-18) and updates to the Broadcast Act (Bill C-11), the company still reported a whopping $2.3 billion profit at the end of last year.

The announcement marks the second major layoff at the media and telecommunications company since June, when it announced 6% of jobs were eliminated and nine radio stations were either closed or sold.

“We are deeply dismayed by this announcement of job cuts at Bell, which directly impacts our members,” said Unifor Quebec Director Daniel Cloutier.

“This unilateral decision shows a blatant lack of consideration for the dedication and hard work of Unifor members, who do not deserve this instability. We express our anger and indignation at this unacceptable situation.”

Len Poirier, Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer, said these hardworking individuals, who have dedicated themselves to the company, deserve better treatment.

“We condemn this decision and stand in solidarity with our members,” he said.

The company also confirmed in a separate internal memo that it intends to sell 45 of its 106 radio stations to seven buyers, with the sales subject to CRTC approval and other closing conditions.

The affected radio stations are in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. Unifor represents members at four of the B.C. radio stations.

Unifor represents more than 10,000 media workers, including 5,000 members in the broadcast and film industries. Over 2,100 members work at Bell Media.

Unifor represents 26,000 telecommunications workers, including more than 19,000 members at BCE Inc. and its subsidiaries.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad and strives to create progressive change for a better future.