Contract negotiations begin for 5,000 Bell clerical employees in Ontario, Quebec

MONTREAL _ Bell Canada and the union representing 5,000 of its office workers in Quebec and Ontario have begun negotiating a new collective agreement.

Unifor, the union representing Bell’s clerical employees, says its number one priority is to prevent more jobs from being outsourced to foreign countries.

Quebec director for Unifor, Renaud Gagne, said since 2006 the company’s workforce in Canada declined from 12,000 to 5,000.

He says many of those jobs have been outsourced worldwide.

“As far as office workers are concerned, it is often in India that someone answers, or elsewhere in the world, replacing our people here in Quebec or Ontario,” Gagne said.

Unifor held a rally in Mississauga Tuesday as contract talks began and the union said another demonstration could take place in Montreal depending on how negotiations progress.

Gagne says they plan to give talks a few weeks before making that decision.

The union also represents technicians, who succeeded during their round of negotiations in obtaining a clause in their agreement preventing Bell from transferring jobs for the during of the contract.

Unifor wants the same provision added in the new contract for office workers.

Other issues include work organization and wages.

According to the union, Bell is seeking concessions from its office employees due to a competitive environment.

Bell management wouldn’t comment on details of the negotiation process. It said the company looked forward to working with the union on a new contract.