Aliant strikers going back to work

Aliant says its unionized employees have agreed to contract terms and will be returning to work on Sept. 20, marking the end of a long and occasionally contentious strike at the Maritime telecommunications service provider.

On Sept. 16 Aliant announced that its 4,300 unionized workers, represented at the bargaining table by the Council of Atlantic Telecommunications Workers (CATU), voted in favour of a collective agreement that expires December, 2007.

“We are extremely pleased that our employees have accepted this agreement and we are looking forward to welcoming them all back to work,” said Jay Forbes, Aliant’s president, in a statement.

According to Dean MacDonald, spokesperson for the Atlantic Communication and Technical Workers Union (ACTWU) in Dartmouth, N.S., the workers had been pushing for better terms regarding “contracting out,” health care and pensions. “We made good gains on all of those,” he said.

“It’s a good day for Atlantic Canada. Forty-three hundred families are going back to work.”

The strike lasted close to five months, but trouble began brewing between employees and the company five years ago. The unions had been working with the telco for a collective agreement since 1999, when four former provincial telcos came together under the Aliant brand.

The employees and the company had been working with federal conciliators since last fall, but the process broke down in March. Aliant wouldn’t include mention in the settlement important issues like job security and pension promises, MacDonald said in an earlier interview.

In June Aliant said two fibre-optic lines serving businesses and residents in parts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia were cut, affecting more than 200,000 customers. At the time an Aliant spokesperson said there had been a number of similar situations since the start of the strike.

The ACTWU denied allegations that union members played any role in the tampering of the network cables.

In July striking Aliant workers received $3 million from the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) and the Telecommunications Workers Union (TWA) to help pay the strikers’ medical benefits.

– With files from Lindsay Bruce and Carly Suppa

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