About 4,200 of Aliant Inc.’s employees took to the picket lines on Friday after time ran out for the telco and its workers to reach a compromise over a new collective agreement.
Aliant’s 1,800 management employees have taken over the service roles of striking employees.
On April 19, the Atlantic Communications and Technical Workers (ACTW) Union notified Aliant that unless a tentative agreement was reached by 11 a.m. on April 23, employees would strike. Workers cast ballots 93.4 per cent in favour of striking on April 13.
Aliant workers have been without a contract since 1999 after Nova Scotia’s four telecommunications providers merged. The ACTW and federal conciliators had been working together to reach an agreement since Fall 2003 but the negotiations broke down in March.
In a letter released April 25 to its members, the ACTW indicated that Aliant had not made enough offers to workers in terms of pensions, job security and health care.
Additionally, there is uncertainty as to when the two parties plan to restart negotations, said Lynn Coveyduck, public affairs manager at Aliant in Halifax.
Despite this disruption in normal operations on Friday, Aliant pledged it will maintain the current service levels that its customers expect. However, Aliant conceded that some delays would be unavoidable including slower response times from its customer care centres. Additionally, Aliant said it would tend to its customers’ needs on a priority basis. For example, out of service issues would be taken care of before tasks such as relocation of services.
Now almost three days into the strike, two Aliant customers have noticed only slight disruptions in services. Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) in Truro, N.S., hasn’t had any glitches in its phone service, but the strike has stalled some moves, adds and changes the college had planned, said Jim Goit, executive director of development at NSAC.
Goit is not worried about its Internet service being disrupted because NSAC’s primary provider is Earthlink Inc. However, the college does use Aliant’s Internet service to connect to governmental services but that has not been disrupted, he said.
Dalhousie University in Halifax, another Aliant customer, also hasn’t experienced any problems with its phone service, but it is something the university is keeping an eye on.
“Today is last day of exams, so we will be going down a little bit in terms of student activity, but there is a considerable staff and faculty complement at the campus and it would effect us a great deal if something did happen,” said Charles Crosby, communications and marketing, external relations at Dalhousie.