Northwestel and union hush hush on layoffs

Northwestel laid off 29 employees last week with no notice. Under the collective agreement, the telco must give unionized employees at least 15 days notice of a layoff.

Northwestel laid off 29 employees last week with no notice.

Under the collective agreement, the telco must give unionized employees at least 15 days notice of a layoff.

“In this case they just blind-sided people,” said one employee, who asked not to be identified. “When they showed up for work they were just being escorted out of the building and asked for the keys and their IDs back.”

In lieu of notice, Northwestel is offering union workers 90 days of “working notice or payment,” according to an information package the News got late Wednesday morning. Those outside the union are not receiving similar treatment.

The anonymous employee said the union was doing very little.

As of press time, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1574 hadn’t responded to several requests for an interview.

However in an email sent to the union’s northern membership, business manager and financial secretary Stephanie Fudge asked everyone keep quiet about the layoffs and “respect company confidentiality.”

Northwestel has also asked all its employees to keep quiet.

“Out of respect for the employees who are directly impacted, we would ask that you remember that the changes we are undergoing are an internal matter,” wrote Northwestel CEO Paul Flaherty. “This is an unsettling time for all of us.”

In her email to its members, Fudge said the union won’t have a full understanding of the vacated positions under the collective agreement until December 12.

Those who have been let go have until December 2 to decide to whether or not they will accept the redundancy package the company has offered.

Those with 30 years of pensionable service have until December 7, to accept an early retirement package.

Northwestel isn’t saying anything about the layoffs beyond a statement it released last week that claimed the layoffs were part of “measures to optimize its operations and better position the company for the future.”

“It’s an internal matter,” said Emily Younker, Northwestel’s manager of corporate communications. “Right now, the priority is respecting the privacy of all individuals.”

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