The operator says the step is necessary to ensure the smoth running of its operations for customers

Back in March 2021, Rogers Communications agreed to buy rival telco giant Shaw Communications for around C$21 billion ($15 billion), threatening to reduce the Canadian telecoms market from four national operators to three.

Over the next two years, the duo would face an uphill regulatory battle that saw Shaw forced to sell its mobile unit Freedom Mobile to Montreal-based wireless operator Vidéotron, as well as provide various other assurances, to receive the green light from government watchdogs.

Approval was finally granted earlier this year, with government’s Competition Tribunal feeling confident that Vidéotron would step into the void left by Shaw in Western Canada.

Throughout this arduous merger process, Rogers and Shaw insisted that the deal would help create jobs across the nation, initially pledging to create 3,000 net roles in Western Canada over the next five years.

As is so often the case with these major mergers, however, the reality has been far less rosy. Around six months after the merger was finally completed and with operational integration underway, Rogers announced a wave of job cuts, noting that they had identified “some overlap in corporate roles” across the business. Exactly how many positions have been eliminated is unclear, with Rogers saying the cuts have affected “just a small percentage” of the company’s workforce.

Responding to criticism over the job reduction, Rogers defended itself saying that it had hired more than 2,000 additional employees since the merger and reiterating that the company is committed to job creation over the coming years.

But despite these reassurances, the future of some of the company’s workforce remains uncertain.

Having been in negotiations since February, two months ago around 300 former Shaw technicians voted 99.6% in favour of a striking over fears of job security, saying that they were increasingly being replaced by contractors.

“It’s not like the work has disappeared,” said Jayson Little, spokesperson for the United Steelworkers union, which represents the workers. “They’ve just started to rely more and more on contractors to do that work.”

“The message that we’ve heard loud and clear from the employer in this round of bargaining, is that they’re really interested in expanding contracting out — and eroding the jurisdictional boundaries that we used to have between us and contractors,” he added.

Since the vote, negotiations have failed to come to a meaningful conclusion, leading the workers to announce they would begin striking today.

As a result, Rogers says it will move to lock out the technicians in question, deeming the step necessary to continue providing consistent service to customers.

The company insists that the number of contractors used remains consistent with its operations over the past few decades and that this figure will not increase.

“We’ve activated our contingency plans so we can continue to carry out our critical work for our customers and meet their needs without interruption,” said Rogers spokesperson Cam Gordon. “We remain ready and willing to get back to the negotiating table and work on a settlement agreement in good faith.”

Having been at the negotiating table for the best part of a year already, it seems unlikely that this clash will be resolved any time soon.

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