For more than two years, AT&T Inc. has braced itself for the possibility that tens of thousands of employees will stop working in protest.
The telecommunications titan has a contingency plan should some 40,000 wireline workers represented by the Communications Workers of America go on strike later this weekend after their contracts with AT&T expire.
“We anticipate that both parties will work conscientiously and in good faith toward a suitable agreement, and we don’t think a work stoppage is in anyone’s best interest,” AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said by email. “That said, AT&T has systematically and thoroughly prepared for a potential work stoppage through” a contingency plan.
“We have been planning for more than two years to handle such a possibility,” Richter added, “and we have a substantial contingency workforce of well-trained managers and vendors in place.”
Richter did not immediately respond to a request for further details on AT&T’s contingency workforce.
To date, Dallas-based AT&T doesn’t seem to have made much progress reaching a resolution with the CWA on contracts that expire tomorrow at midnight.
“The company is not doing any serious bargaining yet. They are kind of ignoring the bargaining team ….,” CWA Vice President Chris Shelton said recently during a national call with other representatives of the union. Shelton was referring specifically to negotiations at AT&T East. “We have to get AT&T to pay attention and start bargaining for real here,” Shelton added.
AT&T and its employees have been working to reach new contracts governing a number of employment issues that workers consider crucial, including benefits and wages. Seth Rosen, another CWA Vice President, said that AT&T wants to significantly raise what workers contribute to healthcare costs. AT&T’s latest proposal, he said on the call, would have workers pay 32 percent of the costs of healthcare by the end of a three-year contract. AT&T has declared that its employees pay significantly less for healthcare than union employees in other areas of its business.
Shelton said other issues need to be addressed as well, including AT&T’s unreasonable productivity measurements, workers’ scheduling and employees’ sick time.
“This company pays no attention to our personal lives. They don’t care about our members’ personal lives,” he declared, referring to the need to balance family and work life.
Another CWA representative raised concerns about job security and the outsourcing of jobs to places like South America and the Philippines.
AT&T has said it is committed to protecting good-paying, middle-class jobs.
“Our goal continues to be to provide good union careers with excellent wages and benefits and to reach an agreement that will provide a strong future for AT&T and its employees,” AT&T asserts on a website dedicated to the negotiations.