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Verizon Strike: Tensions Heighten as CWA Snubs Latest Offer

Strike

Edward GatelyUnion leaders Thursday balked at Verizon’s updated proposal for the nearly 40,000 wireline employees on strike from Massachusetts to Virginia.

The carrier upped its wage increase offer from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent over the term of the contract. The company also said it is offering continued access to “high quality health care at an affordable cost and generous retirement benefits.”

Verizon spokesman Rich Young tells Channel Partners that “with the last, best final offer on the table, we will see whether the unions intend to meaningfully engage with us or not. The ball is now in their court.”

The updated proposal also includes layoff protection “provided the company gets increased flexibility in managing and deploying the workforce, through measures such as voluntary retirement incentive offers and other workforce flexibility changes,” Verizon said. Also, retirement benefits include a continued 401(k) company match and a continued pension plan with three annual increases subject to a 30-year cap.{ad}

“From the beginning, our goal has been to reach an agreement that’s fair to our employees, good for our customers and helps our company better compete in the digital world,” said Marc Reed, Verizon’s chief administrative officer. “This offer meets those objectives. A better offer would be hard to find.”

The striking workers are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). They include installers, customer service employees, repair workers and other service workers in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The strike began April 13.

Dennis Trainor, CWA District One vice president, and Ed Mooney, CWA District 2-13 vice president, issued the following statement regarding Verizon’s proposal:

“Verizon workers remain on strike and are standing strong on the picket lines. At negotiating sessions in Westchester and Philadelphia today, executives refused to back off of callous proposals that would hurt working families and destroy middle class jobs, including shipping jobs overseas and outsourcing work. The company also failed to budge on the issues facing Verizon Wireless workers. Verizon workers, customers and shareholders need the company to get serious about negotiations and building a stronger company.”

The CWA said striking workers will begin receiving weekly payments from a $441 million union relief fund. For now, all striking workers will get a $200 payment, and another $200 next week if the strike continues. After that, weekly payments will increase to …

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… $300 and eventually $400 if the strike goes beyond eight weeks.

Those facing hardship can also apply for extra cash from a separate Solidarity Relief Fund, which can distribute money on a case-by-case basis.

Verizon will discontinue health insurance for striking workers on May 1. CWA spokesman Bob Master said the union will pay insurance premiums for people with chronic conditions and will address any workers’ health emergencies as they arise.

Shareholders are going to “feel the impact of a prolonged strike that executives could easily end, and they’re already risking financial losses as Verizon breaks promises to local communities and fails to maintain lines in multiple states,” the CWA said.

Also this week, Verizon reported a more than 100 percent increase in the number of suspected incidents of sabotage that have cut off “thousands of Verizon customers from critical wireline services.”

Last week, Verizon reported that it was investigating 24 suspected criminal incidents in five states since April 13. As of Wednesday, that number has increased to 57 incidents in seven states. It is offering rewards of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of individuals who intentionally damage Verizon equipment.

In the meantime, the CWA said more and more incidents of replacement workers “endangering themselves and the public” are coming to light. Basic safety practices aren’t being followed as “unqualified managers and contractors hang cables, place poles and operate heavy equipment throughout the Verizon footprint, which extends from Massachusetts to Virginia,” the union said.


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