Bell Canada CEO faces critics over layoffs

Mirko Bibic cites several reasons for layoffs, including productivity, inflation and delays in implementation of federal Online Streaming Act

Bell Canada CEO faces critics over layoffs

Members of Parliament had some pointed questions for Bell Canada CEO Mirko Bibic at a meeting of the House of Commons heritage committee on Thursday afternoon.

This follows the employer’s decision to lay off thousands of employees.

"The idea you saw fit to take substantial bonuses and equity packages at a time your workers, employees and journalists could have had their jobs saved is a bit disappointing," Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed told Bibic, according to CTV News.

"I think it's important to think about Canadians, particularly those who subsidized your company for so long."

In February, Bibic announced that BCE, the parent company of Bell Media, was cutting 4,800 jobs from “all levels of the company.”

Conservative heritage critic Rachael Thomas, meanwhile, said it's "really rich" for a company worth $40 billion that received government subsidies to lay off its workers, according to the CTV report.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also said the CEO was "choosing greed" over giving consumers "a break" on cellphone fees.

In the spring of 2023, Bell Media also cut 6% of its workforce and nine radio stations.

Bell Canada CEO defends layoffs

The layoffs are the result of a number of factors, including productivity, inflation and delays in the implementation of the federal Online Streaming Act, said Bibic.

The media ecosystem in Canada "is in crisis,” he told MPs.

"The industry is in flux due to technological disruption, changing viewer habits, shifting advertiser demand and vigorous competition from foreign web giants who are not subject to the same costly regulations as Canadian broadcasters," Bibic said, according to CTV News.

The Online Streaming Act looks to level the playing field between traditional broadcasters and streaming companies, according to the report. The legislation received Royal Assent on April 27, 2023, and is the first major reform of the Broadcasting Act since 1991.

“The law will give Canadians more opportunities to see themselves in what they watch and hear, under a new framework that better reflects our country today,” said the federal government.

Under the legislation, Bell is benefiting from significant regulatory relief, noted The Canadian Press.

Unifor criticizes Bell layoffs

However, Unifor was disappointed with Bibic’s statements to the MPs. 

"We heard nothing in today's testimony that could possibly justify BCE's firing of more than 6,000 people with one hand while hiking executive pay and shareholder payouts with the other," said Lana Payne, Unifor national president. "The fact that the corporation thought it could take both these actions at the same time shows just how out of touch they are with the Canadian public right now." 

Unifor also refuted statements by Bibic implying that the union agreed with the company to make the job cuts. 

"It is blatantly false that Unifor was in any way, shape or form in favour or agreement with Bell's deplorable decision to fire thousands of workers," said Payne.

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