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News

Telus CEO Was on Stage in Raunchy 'Telus Idol' Video

Management ordered workers to watch tape many found offensive.

By Tom Barrett 21 Aug 2005 | TheTyee.ca
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Telus CEO Darren Entwistle participated in and apparently condoned the events recorded in the Telus Idol video, the union representing Telus employees says.

The video, which the Telecommunications Workers Union describes as sexist and homophobic, was part of a package of videos that were mandatory viewing for company sales staff.

Earlier this month, The Tyee wrote about the video, which has become an issue in the Telus labour dispute. Shot at an employee sales conference in Montreal, the video is a takeoff of Canadian Idol. Telus senior managers acting as judges make jokes about their penises, their colleagues' sexual orientation, and the breasts of female contestants.

Near the end of the video, which has been posted on various Web sites, Entwistle can be seen dancing on stage, while a female contestant lies at his feet.

"Mr. Entwistle was at the event so he obviously condoned it because he was there and didn't stop it," said TWU vice-president Hope Cumming. "In fact, he was up on the stage and participated in the events near the end and appeared to be enjoying himself."

Staff required to order video

Cumming said the video was filmed at a Telus sales retreat in January, 2004. Following the retreat, sales employees at the company were required to order the video, which Cumming said was part of a six-tape set that covered the entire weekend event.

Workers and managers in the Telus sales department were required to order the package of tapes from the internal company Intranet "because it included information about where Telus was going in the future and how their sales would have been impacted," Cumming said.

After a union member complained about the Idol tape, the union protested to the company in the late spring of 2004, she said.

"As soon as we brought that to the company's attention, I think that tape got pulled very quickly off of their site where you could order it."

After four months of discussions about the Idol tape, some of the managers in the video were disciplined and the company implemented a "respectful workplace" policy.

Asked if Entwistle was one of the mangers disciplined, Cumming said she was unable to comment except to say that "the respectful workplace policy applies to the entire company from the top of the executive ranks to all the bargaining unit."

'Appropriate discipline'

Cumming said the union had viewed the matter as confidential. The union would have made no comment if Drew McArthur, Telus vice-president of corporate affairs, had not discussed the video with The Tyee, she said.

When interviewed for the August 8 Tyee story, McArthur said the video represents "some inappropriate actions on the part of a few individuals at Telus. Those actions were addressed. The managers were dealt with."

The managers were subject to "appropriate discipline," McArthur said, but refused to discuss which managers were disciplined or what form that discipline took.

McArthur angered TWU officials when he suggested in the August 8 story that union members were being hypocrites for complaining about the video.

Said McArthur: "I think the TWU would be well advised to take a careful look in the mirror because as an example we've got TWU members who complain about a few managers' inappropriate behaviour and they're assaulting our managers while they're on the picket line.

"They are hurling threats, harassing. And these are the same individuals that will complain about these managers' behaviour."

When told that TWU officials were refusing to make any comment on the Idol video, McArthur replied: "Well, good for them."

No response to union apology demand

After the initial story ran, the union demanded an apology for McArthur's comments. Cumming said there has been no response from Telus.

Cumming said that, despite the respectful workplace policy, there have been similar incidents since.

Managers have forced employees to watch offensive clips from television shows and movies, she said.

The clips portray people in demeaning ways, Cumming said. In one example, a tape containing racist comments from 'Saturday Night Live' was shown, she claimed.

"If I'm watching something on television and I don't like it, I can get up and turn it off," she said. "But if I'm sitting in my workplace and my manager's showing me something off a movie or something off a television program that offends me, what choices do I have?"

The union, she said, has taken action to "get that stopped."

Such inappropriate material is part of "a culture" that has been created by Telus management, she said.

Telus officials did not return calls from The Tyee made Thursday and Friday of last week.

Tom Barrett is a contributing editor to The Tyee. His previous article about the Telus Idol video controversy can be found here.

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