By Roger Currie
Do you remember the days when working for the telephone company meant a lifetime of guaranteed employment followed by a very nice pension? That was also when my father stood by with his stopwatch when one of us had to make a long distance call.
How times have changed. Younger generations don’t really use phones that much, at least not for talking to someone, and those guaranteed jobs? Forget it. The big guys — Shaw, Bell and Telus — are laying off employees by the hundreds every month. For a long time, the trimming could be accomplished by attrition. When someone retired or quit, they just weren’t replaced. But it’s going way beyond that now.
This past week it was Telus announcing that a total of 1,500 jobs will disappear over the next few years to enable the company to “maintain profit margins.” Manitoba Telecom Services, which was privatized by the Conservative government of Gary Filmon 19 years ago, is going through a similar exercise. In Saskatchewan, they don’t talk much about it, but the same thing is probably going on at SaskTel, the last of the phone utilities that functions as a crown corporation.
Where do the jobs disappear? The first place seems to be customer service. You seldom get to speak to a live human being when you call 411 for directory assistance. That would be OK if they hadn’t also done away with phone books. When I call MTS for any kind of help, like making sure I’m subscribed to the right channel to see the Winnipeg Jets game, I’m encouraged by a disembodied voice to “go the MTS website” to solve the problem.
At the risk of sounding like a grouchy dinosaur, I suggest this amounts to age discrimination. My kids and grandkids are firmly entrenched in the digital world. They can figure things out on their smart devices in less time than it takes me to punch in a phone number. But many older Canadians are mightily intimidated by it all.
Just thought you corporate executives should know that.
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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.