Verizon's potential Canadian launch prompts massive union rally

People attend a rally held by the Unifor union to protest against the possible entry of U.S. telecommunications firm Verizon into the Canadian wireless market

Credits: REUTERS


TORONTO - Thousands of union members shut down Toronto's Yonge Street Friday afternoon to protest the possibility U.S. telecom giant Verizon may be allowed to compete in Canada's cellphone market.

The protest was organized by The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union and the Canadian Auto Workers Union, which have joined forces to become a new union, known as Unifor.

"Opposition to allowing Verizon to take over our telco industry is growing every day. The deal will give Verizon the green light to piggyback on technology built by and for Canadians and put thousands out of work," said David Coles, national president of the CEP.

Verizon has recently hinted at interest in the Canadian market. Under federal rules, new entrants can bid in the auction for two of four prime blocks of the spectrum that wireless companies need to operate mobile services.

Existing big players, however, can bid for only one block apiece.

"This is an outrageous situation and the Harper government can't explain it themselves. They want to offer a special deal to a multinational company with tax breaks. They have declared war on homegrown Canadians."

Coles also said Verizon will spy on Canadians.

"Any American company has to turn over any information they have on you to the American government. Anything transmitted on their lines will be required to be turned over to the American government," Coles said.

It is not right to grant special favours to an American company, said Michelle Arruda, president of CEP, Local 6004.

"It's not fair and we will lose thousands of Canadian jobs," Arruda said. "Our workers pay taxes here. I urge everyone to use social media to get the message out that you have to stand up for yourself and ask Mr. Harper, where are your values?"

The government has put out the false pretence that allowing this deal will make things better in the market, said Ken Lewenza, national president of the CAW.

"We want our jobs to stay here in Canada and we want jobs for our kids when they finish college," said Lewenza.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke to the controversy on Thursday.

"The reality of the situation here is there is no special rule or special loopholes for foreign companies," Harper said

"There are rules that assist all new entrants, whether they be Canadian or foreign, to enter the marketplace and provide competition that will be in the interest of Canadian consumers.
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