April 12th, 2024

Bell CEO summoned to committee over job cuts after not finding time to appear: MPs

By Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press on March 25, 2024.

Mirko Bibic, president and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada, speaks during a CRTC hearing in Gatineau, Que., on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Members of Parliament have summoned Bibic to testify next month about the decision to cut thousands of jobs across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA – Members of Parliament have issued a summons to the head of Bell Canada to compel his testimony next month about the company’s decision to cut thousands of jobs across the country.

CEO Mirko Bibic and a handful of other executives were originally invited to appear before the Canadian Heritage committee on Feb. 29 and then March 19, but MPs say they had been unable to attend.

Last week, in a closed-door meeting, the committee agreed to summon Bibic to appear on April 11 to answer questions and talk about the job cuts.

When a witness declines an invitation to appear, a committee may issue a summons to compel their attendance.

Bell’s parent company BCE Inc. “enacted its largest layoff in 30 years and haven’t even bothered showing up to explain to Canadians why,” said NDP Niki Ashton, who introduced the motion to summon Bibic.

Because it was a closed-door meeting, it’s unclear which parties supported the summons.

A spokesperson for Bibic said he had already agreed to appear at the committee in March before the meeting was postponed by the committee’s clerk.

The statement contradicts Ashton, who wrote to Bibic on March 19 raising concerns that his staff had repeatedly asked to postpone the appearance.

“You said in your correspondence with the committee that you were unable to attend any of our committee meetings until the end of May,” Ashton wrote.

“Perhaps if any of the 4,800 employees you fired still had their job, you’d have less on your plate.”

Unifor, which represents thousands of workers at Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. and Bell Media, had previously said the decision to delay the February appearance until March was at the company’s request.

A Bell spokesperson said Bibic will appear before the committee in April and is looking forward to the discussion.

The committee “isn’t just a personal inconvenience that can be put off again,” Ashton said, and that Bibic “owes it to Canadians” to explain how Bell enacted its largest job layoff in decades.

BCE announced in February it was cutting its workforce by 4,800 positions, including ending multiple television newscasts and selling off 45 of its 103 radio stations.

The company blamed the cuts on the federal government and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, saying Ottawa took too long to provide relief to media companies in crisis.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2024.

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