AT&T, CWA begin negotiations for 27,000 Southeast employees

AT&T (NYSE: T) has begun contract negotiations with 27,000 employees in its Southeast territory represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

The Southeast region, which was formerly BellSouth, has wireline employees in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Both parties met yesterday with both presenting their own position statements on the negotiation process.

Since the union bargaining process just began, specific items are subject to change, and at this point neither AT&T nor CWA could offer any specific details. Among the issues that the CWA is asking for clarity on in its negotiations with the telco are pay increases, healthcare and pensions.

"Our members also deserve appropriate wage increases," said Richard Honeycutt, vice president of CWA District 3, in an opening statement of the negotiation process. "Since the signing of the last contract in 2012, they are routinely given more work and responsibilities. Even though their workload has increased, they are still held to the same rigid standards and performance levels that were in place before they were given this extra work."

The Southeast region is just one region where AT&T and CWA had to negotiate a new labor contract. Earlier this year, AT&T negotiated tentative agreements covering nearly 17,000 wireline employees in the Midwest.

It is a busy time for union negotiations for the major telcos, a process continues to be filled with tension.

Fellow telco Verizon just began its negotiations with the CWA and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) on Monday. During the first day of negotiations, Verizon has proposed a new three-year contract covering 38,000 employees it says will offer wage increases during the period.

CWA and IBEW representatives have made allegations about Verizon not properly maintaining its existing copper networks and falling behind on its FiOS buildout commitments in New York City. Verizon has refuted these claims, saying they are being made to threaten the company as they negotiate a new labor contract.

Earlier this year, Tier 2 telco FairPoint Communications ended a four month strike with its union workers in its Northern New England region. After the two sides could not come to an agreement over retiree health care, freezing pensions and the use of extra contract labor, nearly 1,700 Fairpoint workers represented by the northern New England chapters of the IBEW and CWA went on strike in October.

For more:
- see this CWA release

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