Complaints to the CRTC about Telus service in B.C. have nearly tripled since the phone company lockout began back in July.



In August and September, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission heard from about 600 complainants.

In the months prior to the lockout, the CRTC received between 200 and 300 complaints against the phone company.

Jessica Maurer of New Westminster is one unhappy Telus customer. For more than two months, she has been waiting for her home phone to be connected, and says she's growing more frustrated every day.

"We've spent countless hours on hold trying to get all these issues resolved," she says.

"I've e-mailed my cell phone number to most of our friends and family, but our phone is now officially out of service. So that's the message they get, is that our phone is out of service and they have no way of contacting us."

Maurer says having to use her cell phone has added about $400 to her phone bills since July.

Telus defends record



Telus VP Drew McArthur (File photo)
Telus vice president Drew McArthur says the company is meeting most customer service targets despite its ongoing dispute with unionized workers.

He also some of the increase in the number of complaints can be attributed to a write-in campaign by Telus's locked out workers urging people to complain about service.

McArthur admits service has been slow to customers needing a technician to visit their home or office. And he says wet weather and vandalism are also slowing down service delivery.

Simon Fraser University business professor Lindsay Meredith says in the competitive world of telecommunications, the big increases in the number of complaints could erode Telus's customer base.

"If you lose your customer base, you can get a high defection rate. Once they defect, getting them back is not all that easy," he says.

"In the telecommunications business, it's especially dicey for the corporation because competition is just exploding."

Advances in technology have resulted in increased competition for the large telecommunications firms as subscribers consider switching to such things as computer (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone services.

Analysts say the prolonged dispute could also cause the company to delay strategic initiatives. Telus has already postponed the rollout of TV service because of the work stoppage.

Telus employees remain on the picket line after 50.3 per cent of the 9,027 Telecommunications Workers Union members voted turned down a proposed contract deal on Oct. 30.

The agreement would have applied to 13,700 workers in Alberta and British Columbia.

NDP MLAs reject Telus

Some NDP MLAs are refusing to use Telus phone service at their constituency offices because of the ongoing labour dispute. Instead, they're using cell phones offered by Bell Canada.

Skeena MLA Robin Austin, first elected in May, says he didn't have a chance to set up his constituency office before the Telus lockout started in July.

Now, he says he wants to support the right to free collective bargaining.

"I didn't want to have Telus managers or other people coming in doing the work that should have been there for the Telus staff. So I thought that until they resolve this dispute, I would take another route and use Bell Canada."

Austin says people trying to call his constituency office shouldn't notice any difference.