Cablegate: No End in Sight to Lengthy Atlantic Canada Telecoms Strike

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY: How Bell Canada fares in its talks with its
unionized workforce could have an impact on a 13-week strike by
communication workers in Atlantic Canada, employed by Aliant
Communications. Industry watchers believe Bell, the major
shareholder in Aliant, is pressuring the Aliant negotiators not
to make any concessions to its workforce's demands for fear of a
ripple effect in its own labor negotiations in Ontario. END

2. Representatives of Aliant, the largest communication service
company in Atlantic Canada, and its striking unions broke off
talks on July 16 with no progress on ending a prolonged labor
dispute. The 4,000 unionized workers have been on strike since
April 23 when both sides could not reach an agreement on a new
contract. Issues include health and pension benefits, higher
wages and limits on contracting out services. The union members
account for two-thirds of the company's workforce and are
presented by the Council of Atlantic Telecommunications Unions.
There are no other meetings planned and union members are vowing
to stay on the picket line indefinitely.

3. Industry watchers believe that Aliant's failure to reach an
agreement with its union is linked to Bell Canada's negotiations
with its own unions in Central Canada. Bell is the majority
shareholder in Aliant and analysts believe that Bell does not
want the Aliant negotiators to make any concessions to its
workforce until after Bell has concluded its own deal. In the
meantime Aliant has retrained and reassigned its 1800 management
employees, but the company conceded recently that it was
suffering as well as the union members from the effects of the
strike. Since the company is the major provider for telephone,
wireless, Internet, e-commerce and network services in Atlantic
Canada, there are worries over the long term effect on the
communications industry in the region. Under the circumstances
Aliant officials, union leaders, industry analysts and consumers
alike will be highly interested bystanders as the Bell labor
situation unfolds.


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