Verizon tightens its wireline union concessions

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As Verizon (NYSE: VZ) gets ready to go to the bargaining table to replace its three-year union contracts that will expire early next month, the telco wants tougher concessions from its unions.   

Among the many provisions Verizon has proposed are tying raises to job performance, making it easier to fire union employees for cause, halting pension accruals in 2011 and requiring union workers to contribute to health plan premiums. The new contracts cover 45,000 Verizon union workers in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.

"We have never seen such an aggressive agenda," said representatives of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers in a Wall Street Journal article.

Verizon's proposals, which affect mainly technician and call center rep jobs in its wireline business, reflect the service provider's ongoing move to upgrade its copper network and expand its wireless network. While the copper network is not completely going away anytime soon, maintaining the fiber network takes less maintenance and the wireless unit is not unionized.

Last year, Verizon cut its wireline workforce through a series of 12,000 buyouts. Not surprisingly, union members plan to hold strike-authorization votes this month, arguing that Verizon's moves aren't necessary to maintain its financial bottom line.

For more:
- the Wall Street Journal has this article

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