The Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) is expected to rule in the coming days on an appeal TELUS Corp. filed last month seeking to overturn a previous CIRB ruling ordering the telco into binding arbitration with the Telecommunications Workers Union (TWU). The two parties have been in contract talks for more than three years and this is the latest volley by the company to get terms that are more favourable to it. Bruce Bell, a VP with the TWU, tells Network Letter that until TELUS filed the appeal, discussions appeared to be heading toward a solution. He adds that both sides seemed satisfied that discussions were at least moving forward. "We were looking forward to binding arbitration. They put down four terms of reference and we immediately said ‘we don’t agree with your terms of reference, but we can argue about all that stuff.’ So we met across the bargaining table shortly thereafter, moving into early February, and tried to hammer out some terms of reference and tried to hammer out some arbitrators. It wasn’t going very far, very fast, and low and behold February 15-16 they had a change of mind and they decided they were going to appeal." Prior to filing the appeal, the company appeared to wholeheartedly support the CIRB’s decision ordering binding arbitration (NL, Feb. 3/04). "We welcome the opportunity to engage in binding arbitration. Binding arbitration provides a process whereby TELUS can arrive at a new collective agreement that supports our team’s future competitiveness," TELUS president and CEO Darren Entwistle said in a January 29 news release, issued a day after the CIRB’s ruling. In agreeing to the binding arbitration process, the company set out four terms of reference similar to those established in other settlements: the economic growth and competitiveness of the company given the changing needs of customers, technological advances and the competitive dynamics of the industry; the company’s ability to operate efficiently, improve productivity and meet acceptable standards of service; comparability with other collective agreements within the industry; and importance of good labour-management relations. Two weeks later, however, on February 17, TELUS made an about-face and announced that it appealed the CIRB ruling both to the CIRB itself and the Federal Court of Canada (NL, Feb. 23/04). Despite filing the appeal, the company maintained that it would continue to meet with the union to select an arbitrator and to determine the terms of reference. Bell says, however, that hasn’t happened. "Bargaining is not happening. The company is not very interested in meeting to bargain or to go into binding arbitration." It’s rare these types of decisions are overturned, says Bell. But, he adds, "There’s a very strong rumour out there that they are going to win their reconsideration."