AT&T, CWA hammer out tentative labor agreement with Southwest wireline workforce

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AT&T and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) have reached a tentative labor agreement covering wireline workers in its Southwest market.

The four-year agreement covers over 20,000 employees in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. CWA said that the agreement will be submitted to the union's membership for a vote in coming days.

AT&T and CWA agreed to start negotiating a new contract early. The current labor contract expires on April 8.

RELATED: CWA-represented AT&T workers ramp up pressure in contract negotiation process

AT&T said if the agreement is ratified on or before April 7, 2017, a ratification bonus of $1,000 will be paid to each eligible employee. The agreement would be effective April 9, 2017 and expire April 10, 2021. 

Eligible employees covered by the contract will receive general wage increases in each year of the contract – 3% the first year, 2.5% the second year, 3% the third year, and 2.25% the fourth year. It also maintains what AT&T claims is a “robust” health care plans. The agreement also includes two weeks of paid parental leave to help mothers or fathers bond with a newborn or newly adopted child.

If the telco and CWA approve this agreement, AT&T will have reached 19 different labor agreements in 2016 and 2017 collectively covering over 81,000 employees.

What sets AT&T apart from its fellow telco brothers in the labor negotiation race has been able to avoid the long labor strikes that hit fellow telcos FairPoint and Verizon.

Between 2015 and 2016, AT&T has successfully negotiated 25 labor contracts covering a total of 102,000 workers. In December, AT&T completed an agreement on a new contract covering 2,000 DirecTV call center workers, for example.

However, AT&T and the unions haven’t always met eye to eye. A group of 2,000 workers in AT&T's internet business rejected a contract. The telco and the CWA worked out and approved a new deal a few weeks later.