Rogers Communications Inc. executives promise growth and investment in the West, but critics say the company’s $ 26 billion deal to acquire Shaw Communications Inc. will also result in job cuts on which Rogers account privately but do not speak publicly.
At a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hearing this week, Rogers reiterated its pledge to spend $ 2.5 billion on 5G technology and $ 1 billion on rural internet in British Columbia, by Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
It also plans to “create up to 3,000 net new jobs” in these four provinces, as well as build an engineering center and maintain a head office in the West, all of which are keys to gaining the support of the agreement in Shaw’s hometown of Calgary.
The merger of Canada’s second and fourth largest telecommunications companies will affect millions of consumers and also bring together two major employers: Shaw has 9,400 employees while Rogers has 24,000 employees, more than half of them in the GTA, which is home to its head office in downtown Toronto.
But academics, public interest groups, a big telecommunications rival and one of Canada’s largest unions say that while Rogers takes his investment plans to the broadcasting regulator in the public arena, he’s not speaking the inevitable job cuts that will accompany the merger of two huge cable and wireless companies with overlapping departments for almost everything.
Behind closed doors, Rogers almost certainly tells the Competition Bureau how much money the combined company will save, including through job cuts, said Robin Shaban, a public policy researcher and co-founder of the consulting firm. economics Vivic Research.
In a twist to Canadian competition law, the deal could hurt competition and be bad for wireless, home internet, or TV customers, but still get the nod from the office if companies can show it. results in significant savings. This is bad news for workers, Shaban said.
“We have a law that allows mergers that hurt competitors if the merger results in sufficient job losses,” she said, referring to what is known as “efficiency defense.”
Shaban said companies often cite job cuts as one of the main cost savings – or “synergies,” as Rogers calls the billion dollars she expects to save each year in the next two years. fence.
âYou can’t have $ 1 billion in annual savings and not have job cuts,â she said.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that when you get a merger like this, companies are looking for efficiency gains and that is always a code word for losing jobs,” said Gregory Taylor. , professor of communication studies at the University of Calgary.
The CRTC is focused on the transfer of broadcast licenses while the bureau and the Federal Department of Innovation are conducting parallel reviews on the competition and ownership of wireless wave licenses. Neither should hold public hearings.
When asked if the bureau is considering how the deal will affect work, spokesperson Jayme Albert said the goal is to determine whether it will significantly reduce or prevent competition.
âWhile we understand that mergers can have an impact on employees, in determining whether a transaction will result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition, we generally do not take into account the impact that a transaction may have on employees. jobs or employment. “
Unifor, which represents 26,000 telecom workers and 500 in broadcast and film industries (as well as unionized Star workers), told the CRTC on Thursday it was concerned about job losses in the broadcast industry. the broadcast after Rogers told the regulator that he would end around $ 13 million a year. local news funding that Shaw provides to Global News and redirects it to its own broadcaster, Citytv.
Unifor said this could lead to more than 160 job losses based on rough calculations of $ 80,000 per job. (Global owner Corus Entertainment has indicated it will look to other sources of funding, which could hurt other independent broadcasters.)
The Public Interest Advocacy Center and the Communications Policy and Research Forum have also told the CRTC that they expect broadcasting jobs to be lost with any new hires on the telecommunications side. PIAC said it could be temporary network installation work.
Rogers spokesman Andrew Garas said Thursday that about 60% of the 3,000 positions in the West will be in Alberta and most of the rest will be in British Columbia, noting that “the jobs will cover a range of jobs. permanent roles “. He said investing in infrastructure means “you need the teams to build it, maintain it, and serve the customers who use it.”
“As we move forward in the onboarding process … we will continue to have a strong employee base in all of the markets we operate in Canada,” he said. âTogether with Shaw, we (will be) a truly national company with local teams who can continue to serve local customers and businesses in the communities where we live and work. “
Garas did not say whether the job cuts would be part of the billion-dollar synergies, which he said would come from lower network costs and the elimination of “duplicate technology associated with more. large scale”. The company also expects higher revenues as more customers use its faster networks.
Telus Corp warned the CRTC on Tuesday that the deal would help “drain the Western Canadian business community,” saying the large debt Rogers incurs to pay for the deal “will inevitably lead to job losses. in Western Canada â.
The deal has “a particular impact on Calgary,” Taylor said. “Politicians here will be reluctant to speak out against the Shaw family, but it will mean the loss of another major headquarters in a city that is already suffering.”