Bell boss summoned to Ottawa to explain job cuts

A Commons committee has summoned the boss of Bell Canada as a witness to come and explain on April 11 the company’s decision to cut thousands of jobs across the country.

Bell President and CEO Mirko Bibic was first invited to appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on February 29 and then on March 19, but MPs say he was unable to attend. attend so far.

Last week, in a closed-door meeting, the Commons committee agreed to subpoena Mr. Bibic on April 11, this time to answer questions and explain the job cuts.

When a witness ignores an invitation to appear in Parliament, a Commons committee can compel him with a subpoena.

Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), the parent company of Bell Media, “made its biggest layoff in 30 years and didn’t even bother to show up to explain to Canadians why,” said NDP MP Niki Ashton, who presented the motion to summon Mr. Bibic to the committee.

As this was a closed meeting, it is not clear which parties supported the subpoena.

A spokesperson for Mr. Bibic said he had already agreed to appear before the committee in March, before the meeting was postponed by the committee clerk. The clerk did not respond to a request to confirm this version of events.

Ms Ashton wrote to Mr Bibic on March 19 to raise concerns that his team had repeatedly asked to postpone the appearance.

“You indicated in your correspondence with the committee that you could not attend any of our meetings until the end of May,” wrote Congresswoman Ashton. Maybe you’d be less busy if one of the 4,800 employees you laid off still had their job. »

The committee “is not just a personal setback that can be postponed again,” Ms. Ashton said. Rather, she believes that Mr. Bibic “owes it to Canadians” to explain how Bell carried out its largest job cuts in decades.

The Unifor union, which represents thousands of workers at BCE and Bell Media, has already argued that the decision to postpone the appearance from February to March was requested by the company.

Mr. Bibic’s spokesperson said the CEO would appear before the committee in April and that he looked forward to speaking with MPs.

BCE announced in February that it was reducing its workforce by 4,800 positions, in particular by eliminating several newscasts and selling 45 of its 103 radio stations in the country, including seven in the Quebec region.

The company blamed the federal government and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for the cuts. BCE says Ottawa took too long to help media companies in crisis.

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