COVID aid is for workers, NOT shareholders!

Big Telecom gobbled up hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency COVID wage relief from our federal government — then turned around and paid it out to their investors.1

And if that wasn’t shameful enough? Some of them are now firing hundreds of employees out of the blue, citing corporate financial hardship and “streamlining” — all in a year where their profits were higher than ever.2

Bell, Telus, and Rogers, we’d like a word with you: public emergency funds are for workers, not for increasing your profits. Pay. That. Money. Back.

Canada is DONE putting up with the cruelty and greed of telecom giants. Sign the petition: demand Big Telecom IMMEDIATELY pay back the public money they abused!

To: Bell, Rogers, and Telus

Last year when COVID-19 hit, you told us we’re all in this together. But you took government wage subsidy funds meant to help struggling small businesses during COVID-19. Then you turned around and paid that money out to your shareholders, all while raising Internet and mobile rates and ruthlessly cutting jobs.

You were only out for yourselves, not for Canada. So we have three words for you: Pay. It. Back.

Emergency COVID-19 aid was meant to help workers and keep small businesses afloat, not inflate your profits and raise dividends. Abusing government systems paid for on our dime is disgusting and unacceptable — and it will come with consequences.

We are standing together to demand that you immediately pay back all Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) funds your company received, and guarantee you will not accept any further COVID-19 emergency aid while your businesses remain profitable.

Sincerely,

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The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program was meant to help struggling small businesses and their employees during the COVID-19 crisis — and it has helped hundreds of those businesses stay afloat through a cataclysmic year. 

It should NEVER have been used to pad Big Telecom’s pockets, or let them actually increase their payouts to their shareholders, in a year where income inequality was skyrocketing. But that’s exactly what happened.3

Collectively, Rogers, Bell and Telus grabbed up close to a quarter-billion dollars from the CEWS program.4 Telus turned around and increased their payouts to investors. Rogers laid people off while counting their free money. Bell did both. All of them turned huge profits last year, and each greedily took millions in emergency relief money when they didn’t need it — on the public’s dime!5-7

Financial experts say most shareholders should understandably have been prepared to see payouts decrease in 2020.8 But emergency public funds were actually used to drive those payouts up!

It’s an open demonstration in how Big Telecom treats government funds more generally: like an endless well of free money they can keep exploiting, with little regard for the money’s intended purpose to help Canadians.

That’s all they believe they owe to Canada. And Bell CEO Mirko Bibic has made clear it will never, ever stop. At a 2020 CRTC hearing, he said: “One of the things we have to deliver on is growing that free cashflow to deliver the dividend, and to grow the dividend, and we will do it every single time.9

Makes you wonder: what’s stopping Big Telecom from treating the federal government’s $1.75 billion Universal Broadband Fund exactly like they’ve treated CEWS? 🤔

Enough is enough. Step 1 of holding these shameful, abusive telecom giants accountable starts right now. 

Add your name to the petition: demand Big Telecom immediately pay back the hundreds of millions of dollars they abusively collected from the federal emergency wage subsidy!

Sources

  1. Bell is building its profit at the public trough - Rabble.ca
  2. Poor Form As Bell Media Fires Dan O’Toole And Hundreds More - Forbes
  3. COVID-19 has further amplified economic inequality in Canada, report shows - The Globe and Mail
  4. Rogers, Bell and Telus collected more than $240 million from Canada’s wage-subsidy program — and Bell and Telus raised shareholder payouts - Toronto Star
  5. See 4
  6. CEOs raked in hefty dividends as their companies accepted CEWS, Financial Post analysis finds - Financial Post
  7. Telecom giants choose different ways of being transparent over federal subsidy - The Guardian (PEI)
  8. See 7
  9. Tweet from @Bryson_M - Twitter

Image credits: cheque illustration and man with briefcase are originally by FreePik and modified by OpenMedia.

Press: Laura Tribe | Phone: +1 (888) 441-2640 ext. 0  | laura@openmedia.org