• Michael Laxer

Bell layoffs are the latest CEWS travesty

The massive telecommunications company not only paid out close to $3 billion in dividends after receiving $122.9 million in public CEWS money, they then went on to layoff workers.



In the latest travesty involving the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) fiasco, Bell paid out close to $3 billion in dividends and just this past week slashed dozens of media jobs all after receiving $122.9 million in public money.


We have previously looked at the ongoing scandal of the CEWS which represents the greatest transfer of wealth from the public and government to business and private interests since the 2008 economic crisis.


As we have noted the program has been given to companies that hiked dividends for shareholders with this leading, in some cases, to greater personal wealth for CEOs, it was given to various anti-choice extremist groups and it was issued to companies that had locked out workers and were using scabs.


Some companies, such as Air Canada, also received the subsidy despite laying off workers.


On Monday, February 8 it came to light in the Toronto Star that:


Canada’s big three telecom companies have collectively received more than $240 million from the federal government’s wage subsidy program while continuing to pay out billions of dollars in dividends to shareholders.
According to the most recent filings in provincial lobbyist registries, Bell has received $122.9 million, Rogers $82.3 million and Telus $38.6 million in support payments as part of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).



In addition to paying dividends, Bell has also announced a series of station closures and media layoffs.


Unifor announced February 2 that Bell Media had cut around 100 Unifor jobs in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and "laid off all staff in the newsroom of Montreal radio station CJAD".

In all a total of a total of 210 employees in the GTA alone lost their jobs.


According to Unifor:

Despite the pandemic, BCE continues to be profitable and forecasts a profitable 2021. Dividends to shareholders have gone up by 5.1%. The company has received at least $122 million in federal wage subsidies, and at the end of 2020 had $3.8 billion of available liquidity.
BCE has forecasted it will see revenue and earnings growth of 2% to 5% in 2021, and free a cash flow of $2.85 billion to $3.2 billion.

Jerry Dias, Unifor National President, was certainly not wrong in saying this "is a company that has been doing very well throughout this pandemic and now seems to be trying to boost its share price on the backs of its workers".


On February 9 further job cuts were announced as the company shut down radio stations TSN 1040 in Vancouver, TSN 1150 in Hamilton, and TSN 1290 in Winnipeg.


To add insult to injury, they did so with apparently no notice for some workers and followed up a prerecorded on air announcement of the closure with a song entitled "Good Riddance".


Seriously.


To recap, Bell not only paid out close to $3 billion in dividends after receiving $122.9 million in public CEWS money, they then went on to layoff workers. For a program that was allegedly about preserving the jobs and wages of workers, the CEWS is really a gift to the capitalist class that just keeps giving.

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