At a series of three coordinated rallies in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary Thursday evening, the Alberta Federation of Labour and the B.C. Federation of Labour unveiled the first phase of a joint, multi-union campaign aimed at putting pressure on Telus to reach a fair settlement with its locked-out workers.
"Telus may think they're taking on one union representing 13,000 workers. But they've miscalculated," said AFL president Gil McGowan at the Edmonton rally.
"Starting today, they're going to up against the full weight of the entire labour movement in two provinces. Together, we represent hundreds of thousands of members - and that means hundreds of thousands of Telus customers or potential customers."
About 1,000 people from dozens of different unions attended the rallies outside the downtown Telus towers in Edmonton and Calgary.
McGowan says the labour movement is NOT asking people to boycott Telus services - yet. Instead, union members are being asked to discontinue some of their land-line and cell phone features - like call display and voice mail. The AFL and BCFL are also asking their members to report service complaints with Telus to the federal telecommunications regulator, the CRTC.
"We want to turn up the heat on Telus. We want to send the message that customers are not happy. And we make it clear to Telus managers that there may be a serious economic price to be paid if they don't sit down and negotiate a fair contract."
McGowan says that the dispute is really about defending "family sustaining and community sustaining jobs," which he says are threatened by Telus' plans to send work overseas and rely on more contract and temporary workers at home.
"Telus makes its money here, in our towns, in our cities, from our citizens," McGowan told the rally in Edmonton. "As a result, it has an obligation to give something back by investing here and maintaining good jobs here.
"But (Telus CEO Darren) Entwhistle's contract - the one he's tried to ram down your throats - would allow him to contract out jobs, to strip benefits, to send work down to the southern United States or to the Philippines. Tonight we're here to say "no" to this kind of corporate irresponsibility. We're here to say "no way" to the Entwistle way."
The Alberta Federation of Labour represents about 120,000 workers in Alberta from 29 different unions - including unions like the United Nurses of Alberta, the Communications, Energy, Paperworkers union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and the United Food and Commercial Workers.
Many other unions not directly affiliated with the AFL have also pledged to support the campaign in support of locked-out Telus workers.
The B.C. Federation of Labour represents 470,000 workers from dozens of different unions in both the public and private sectors
For more information about the campaign to support locked-out Telus workers, visit the AFL website at www.afl.org.