AT&T Labor: Deal Reached in Southwest as Others Protest

There’s good news and bad news for AT&T on the labor front.

Just one week after wireline workers in the company’s Southwest region rejected a contract offer, the carrier says it has successfully negotiated a new, tentative agreement with the Communications Workers of America union in that part of the country.

It covers 20,000 employees in Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Union members will once again get the chance to vote in coming days.

AT&T is sweetening the pot, offering each eligible employee a $1,000 bonus if they ratify the contract by Feb. 27. The proposed four-year deal would kick in on April 7, one day after the existing agreement expires.

The agreement includes wage hikes of 2.25 percent the first year, 2.5 percent in the second year, 2.75 percent in the third and 3 percent in year four. It also includes a 1 percent pension band increase in each year of the contract for most employees, and includes a provision that promises qualified surplus employees a guaranteed job opportunity with AT&T. Employees will be required to pay more toward their health premiums.

Meantime, AT&T workers in parts of the Midwest aren’t happy. Some of them protested in Fort Wayne, Ind., this week to bring attention to the expiration of their contract, which happens on Sunday.

WAVE-TV caught up with members of CWA Local 4900, one of whom told the TV station that they are “wanting a fair contract, fair wages, fair working conditions … and that’s all we’re asking for.” An AT&T spokesman said bargaining is ongoing and the company hopes to have a resolution by the time the contract expires but if that doesn’t happen, negotiations will likely be extended.

Negotiations between carriers and their wireline employees have become more heated over the last few years as more and more people abandon landlines in favor of cellphones. That’s made the wireline side of the business less profitable and has led to layoffs and reductions in benefits for these workers.

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