Consumer advocacy group OpenMedia called on Canadians to sign a petition demanding ‘Big Telecom’ pay back emergency wage relief collected from the Canadian government.
Rogers, Telus and Bell have all come under fire for collecting millions in wage subsidies from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program. Intended to help businesses cover labour costs during the pandemic, telecom companies collected huge sums from CEWS while raising dividend payouts to shareholders or laying off workers.
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. Sign the petition to make them pay it back NOW! https://t.co/cpyYDEMsj5 #PayItBack
— OpenMedia (@OpenMediaOrg) February 13, 2021
The OpenMedia petition comes as the Big Three reportedly took in more than $240 million from the federal government’s wage subsidy program.
Rogers collected $82.3 million from CEWS, Telus took $38.6 million and Bell received $122.9 million. Further, Rogers and Bell laid off workers at their media divisions, while Bell and Telus increased annual shareholder payouts.
Bell in particular was scrutinized for hundreds of layoffs at Bell Media. While the layoffs hit local news stations hardest, the company also cut sports radio and TSN positions. The Bell cuts came on the heels of the company’s Let’s Talk Day mental health media campaign.
It’s also worth noting that Nate Erskine-Smith, the Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Beaches-East York in Toronto, filed a private member’s motion that called on the government to compel companies to pay back CEWS money equivalent to the amounts they paid in dividends or share buybacks. However, the Big Three telecom companies claimed that the CEWS payments they received helped keep workers employed.
If you’re interested, you can read more about OpenMedia’s petition or sign it for yourself on the organization’s website.