Add new comment
LONDON, ON -- Alexandra Jackson and her two-year-old daughter Zoey protest with between 30 and 40 labour activists outside the Bell building on Dundas St. Saturday. They are protesting Bell's plans to move about 125 jobs out London. (MIKE HENSEN, The London Free Press)
Mayor Joe Fontana is giving the cold shoulder to labour even as the city bleeds hundreds of jobs and he keeps promising to create 10,000 new ones, the city’s labour council charges.
“We are disappointed with the lack of communication,” said Patti Dalton, head of the London District labour council.
The mayor has declined to attend at least two labour council events, including the recent national day of mourning for workers killed on the job, and didn’t seek the labour council’s input for the recently released task force report on economic development, Dalton said.
But Fontana’s latest musings about private/public partnerships (P3s) to rebuild roads and water and sewer works has labour determined to make some noise he can’t ignore, Dalton vowed.
“We will be knocking on his door on the issue of P3s,” she said. “We are very concerned about this notion. One of the things that invariably happens with P3s is the contracting out of good union jobs and other forms of privatization that undermine good union jobs.”
But Fontana, a former federal labour minister, said he’s not avoiding the labour council and has yet to receive a direct invitation to sit down and talk with the council.
“Of course, I’d love to meet with them. We have a common goal: jobs. I’ve made jobs my No. 1 goal.”
Over the past year, the labour force in the city has shrunk by 6,400.
The city’s director of community services said some unemployed people have stopped looking for work.
The unemployment rate in the London region has been stuck at 8.3% for several months, above the provincial and national averages.
Meanwhile, Fontana rode to victory in the fall election on the promise to create 10,000 jobs.
The reality — job losses instead of gains — prompted 40 labour activists from several unions to rally Saturday outside the Bell building.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to stop the bleeding,” said Noel Burgon, president of Local 6005 of the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP). CEP represents Bell workers.
“London has just been hit so hard this month,” Burgon said. “Seven hundred job losses over the last three or four weeks is just something we need to draw attention to. For a city of this size to have an unemployment rate that is higher than the national average, it is just shameful.”
Bell represents the kind of corporate thinking that is hurting communities like London, Dalton said.
“Bell Canada has a responsibility to the community to retain good union jobs, and I really think they need to be taken to task on this,” Dalton said. “The only reason for the loss of these good union jobs is sheer corporate greed.”
Corporations have a responsibility to communities, she said.
“They are making huge, huge profits. The average CEO’s salary, during the worst of the recession, which is far from over, was $6.6 million. Canada’s top earning CEOs are earning 155 times than the average Canadian worker. I think that is obscene.”
Politicians on all levels have to help Canada keep good-paying jobs, Dalton said.
“I think the mayor and city council certainly have an important role to play. It would be really good if the mayor and city council could engage the labour council in some planning.”
Bell spokesperson Jason Laszlo said in an earlier interview the transfer of the London jobs to the larger call centre in Scarborough is part of a corporate consolidation plan.
“All across the country all unions and activists are getting increasingly militant because we know we have to fight to retain good union jobs,” Dalton said.
--- --- ---
125 jobs at Bell Canada consumer operations department, transferred to Scarborough 200 jobs at the Citi Group Canada in downtown Citi Plaza
189 jobs gone with phased closing of the Specialized Packaging plant
200 jobs at Sykes Assistance Services call centre