You couldn’t pick a better spot to make a statement if you wanted to tell
Ottawa’s tech sector that you are here and you want some attention.

 


It’s within sight of companies like Alcatel, Mitel, and RIM, on a road
travelled by thousands of tech workers. It’s a billboard on March Road, erected
almost three weeks ago by the Canadian Energy and Paper workers Union (CEP),
saying they are the union for tech workers.

 


CTV news was first to report this last Friday. Union organizer Danny
McBride said, “‘We’ve had a very good response.”

 


Over the years, unions and tech companies have never been big partners.
Tech workers have often said they like their long hours of work and the highly
competitive business they’re in. But now, as they have aged, and after they’ve
seen the tough times in the business, maybe there is a change in attitude.



“They may have loved it 10 years or 15 years ago to work 18 hours a day,
but now they’re trying to find some balance in their home life and that sort of
thing and look for security in the future,” says McBride.



CEP’s recruiting telephone line has been getting calls from workers who
say their skills are not being rewarded, or that they are being worked full-time
hours and paid like part time, or dealt with as contractors. McBride says, based
on calls, the union will decide which company or companies they’ll try to
organize.



Wayne Gudbranson is president and CEO of Ottawa’s Branham Group, which
observes Canada’s tech sector. He says younger workers are more than willing to
move from company to company if they don’t get what they want, which may
undermine the union’s efforts.



“Long standing opinion that unions help with job stability does not apply
to the IT world. People might listen but I believe they will decide unions are
not their best option,” he says.



CEP has 150,000 members. Ottawa locals include MDS Nordion, Bell, XWave
and Expertech. McBride admits it’s odd that unions have generally stayed away
from tech and he can’t offer a reason why that’s the case.



But business owners tell me that workers are their lifeblood and that
they do take care of them and offer them perks not seen in other industries.
When the hunt is on for talent, it often means benefits will improve as the
competition for talent increases.



Is that an environment for unions? CEP hopes so. The union is losing
members in traditional areas like paper mills and it needs new blood. If they
have success in Ottawa, there are a lot of tech cities that will be
watching.



  • This Sunday’s CTV News @ 6, including Tech Now, is pre-empted by live Super
    Bowl coverage.