Disagreements over health benefits could contribute to causing a potential strike that would deprive Verizon Communications of thousands of workers.
The telecommunications company is in the final week of negotiations with two unions over a variety of contentious employment issues, including healthcare, benefits and pensions. If Verizon cant reach an agreement on a contract by midnight, August 6, workers may go on strike, causing a crisis for Verizons new chief executive, Lowell McAdam.
Verizon reportedly is asking that workers contribute more for health benefits while the unions contend their members cant assume a financial burden in this economy.
The company is insisting on gutting health care,” Bob Master, a legislative and political director for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), told Bloomberg in an interview. I have never seen bargaining this unproductive in 25 years.”
Verizon spokesman Richard Young said the company is only asking union workers contribute upfront for healthcare like other employees, and that the changes are necessary to keep Verizon competitive.
But the CWA last week portrayed Verizon as a greedy company that is demanding hundreds of concessions despite bringing home $19.5 billion in profits and paying out $258 million to its top five executives over the last four years. CWA members voted overwhelmingly to authorize leaders to call a strike if a contract cannot be reached.
CWA members are determined to fight back against Verizons corporate greed and bargain a fair contract,” said CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney.
The other union involved is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
New York-based Verizon has demanded pension freezes and made proposals that would threaten job security for more than 45,000 workers in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, according to the IBEW. Members of the union, which represents about 12,850 Verizon employees, also have voted to authorize a strike if an agreement cant be reached.
On July 30, a little more than a week after Verizon began negotiations with the two unions, more than 15,000 Verizon employees donning red T-shirts demonstrated at the companys headquarters in New York City. Some workers hailed from as far away as Virginia.
I am glad that I could get up here to be with you today to join you in raising the voices of working people everywhere against the excesses of greed,” IBEW International President Edwin Hill said at the rally.