A Union for Telecommunications Workers
Unifor is Canada’s largest telecommunications union, representing more than 26,000 workers employed by private and public service providers in most regions of the country. The pandemic has proven how important this sector is to the Canadian economy by creating important jobs, keeping businesses going, and connecting communities together. During this challenging time, Unifor telecommunications workers have stepped up – working harder than ever – to ensure that businesses and families have access to the telecommunications services they need to live and operate in this new connected world.
Equitable Access to Broadband Internet
Broadband internet has become an essential service that enables Canadians to fully participate in society and access public services that they rely on. The CRTC Universal Service Objective requires broadband internet service speeds of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload.
Federal programs must ensure that this target is achieved quickly across the country – in particular for rural, remote and Indigenous communities, where there remains inequitable access to fast broadband internet infrastructure. Meanwhile, cost barriers to high-speed internet must be removed in order to ensure that all Canadians have access to this essential service.
Our Telecoms, Our Jobs
Since the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared broadband internet as a basic service under its Universal Service Objective in 2016, there has been significant effort across all levels of government to build broadband infrastructure across the country. The CRTC’s Broadband Fund, federal programs like Connect to Innovate and Broadband Fund, along with a myriad of provincial, territorial and regional programs, have pumped billions of dollars into building new broadband infrastructure.
Government funding for broadband infrastructure has gone to various telecommunications providers – including large corporate providers, small local providers, and publicly-owned entities. However, these funded regional infrastructure projects have not included any “strings attached” related to good, local jobs.
Canadian service providers receiving government funding for projects are not prevented from contracting and sub-contracting out work to reduce labour costs. Meanwhile, some companies contract work overseas (“offshoring”) to further reduce their operational costs, where strong labour and human rights standards may be lacking. Public investments into infrastructure should support the next generation of telecommunications jobs in communities across Canada.
The federal government should continue to drive the expansion of high-speed broadband infrastructure – especially for Indigenous, rural and remote communities.
- Provide additional investments for broadband infrastructure, including but not limited to programs like Connect to Innovate, Universal Broadband Fund and any federal-provincial funding programs.
Federal broadband investments must include clear goals and accountability for service providers receiving funds, and these investments must be tied to local economic benefits and the creation of good jobs.
- Funding to telecommunications companies through federal programs for broadband infrastructure must have “strings attached” that link funding to local benefits and quality jobs:
- Establish prevailing wage and quality of work conditions that deter the use of outsourcing.
- Require union labour to perform the project work.
- Require reporting of any contracted work overseas (“offshoring”) that is connected to funded projects, in order to evaluate human rights and labour standards issues in the supply chain.
Broadband internet must be accessible to all Canadians regardless of income. The Connecting Families Program enables eligible families to access $10 per month internet plans. However, this voluntary program targets only some low-income families and is set to end in March 2022.
- Expand the Connecting Families Program by providing “all low-income Canadians” and “fixed-income seniors” with access to $10 per month internet plans. Such measures should include:
- Removing the cap on the number of families that have access to the program
- Expanding access beyond only families with children – low-income individuals and fixed-income seniors should have access to the program
- Require internet plans to be a minimum speed of 50/10 Mbps
- Make participation in the program mandatory for major telecommunications service providers