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Verizon Wireline Unions Cite ‘Shameful Demands,’ Prep to Strike Wednesday

Strike

Edward GatelyAbout 39,000 Verizon wireline employees said they are set to go on strike early Wednesday if the company doesn’t reconsider cutbacks in current contract negotiations.

Of the 39,000 workers, about 29,000 are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and about 10,000 are with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). The strike is set to begin at 6 a.m. Eastern Time on April 13.

CWA's Chris Shelton“Unless this company reconsiders its shameful demands, our members will be on strike as of 6 a.m. April 13,” said Chris Shelton, CWA president, on a conference call. “We’ve been bargaining for nearly a year and we’ve tried everything, and I mean everything. Nobody wants to go on strike; it’s a hardship for our members … it’s tough on communities. But Verizon has shown it has no regard … for anybody but themselves.”

Verizon’s wireline business includes FiOS Internet, telephone and TV services.

Verizon swiftly countered the strike announcement, saying it “remains committed to its negotiation objectives and seeks to bring this process to closure.”

“We’ve tried to work with union leaders to reach a deal,” said Marc Reed, Verizon’s chief administrative officer. “Verizon has been moving the bargaining process forward, but now union leaders would rather make strike threats than constructively engage at the bargaining table.”{ad}

Verizon's Marc ReedCWA and IBEW said Verizon wants to “gut job security protections, contract out more work, offshore jobs to Mexico, the Philippines and other locations, and require technicians to work away from home for as long as two months without seeing their families.” Verizon also is refusing to negotiate a “fair first contract for Verizon Wireless workers who formed a union in 2014,” they said.

“Verizon has made over $39 billion in profits over last three years,” said Lonnie Stephenson, IBEW’s international president. “Verizon is putting the squeeze on hardworking men and women who have made the company a success. It’s time for Verizon to start to acting as a corporate citizen, and respect the men and women who make it what it is.”

Verizon workers with both unions started negotiations in June 2015 and have been working without a contract since it expired on Aug. 1, 2015.

Union workers said they have agreed to health-care compromises that will save Verizon hundreds of millions of dollars; in exchange, they want Verizon to build up its FiOS broadband network and stop outsourcing call-center jobs, as well as a pension increase.

In the event of a strike, Verizon said …

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… it is “fully prepared” to serve its customers.

“We do not take strike threats lightly,” said Bob Mudge, president of Verizon’s wireline network operations. “For more than a year, we’ve been preparing in the event union leaders order our employees to walk off the job. If a strike takes place, whether it’s one day, two weeks or longer, we are ready.”

Verizon has trained thousands of non-union employees to carry out “virtually every job function handled by our represented workforce – from making repairs on poles to responding to inquiries in our call centers,” he said.

“We know the unions’ strike order will be a hardship and pose challenges for our employees, but as a 24×7 customer service company, our contingency plans are in place and our company will continue to serve those who rely on us,” Mudge said.

Dennis Trainor, CWA District 1 vice president, said Verizon is determined to “destroy good jobs because executives only care about their own pay and Wall Street.”

Verizon said its wireline proposal includes a 6.5 percent wage increase over the term of the contract, affordable health-care benefits and competitive retirement benefits, including a 401(k) with a company match.

The company approached negotiations with a goal of “preserving good jobs while also making critical changes needed to legacy contracts,” Mudge said. Its employees covered under the contracts currently have a wage and benefit package that averages more than $130,000 a year, he said. More than 99 percent of these employees support the wireline business, which in 2015, contributed about 29 percent of Verizon’s revenue, but less than 7 percent of the company’s operating income, he said.

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