AT&T wireline Southwest region employees represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) District 6 have approved a four-year contract, but the company is still working out a contract for its West region where tensions remain high.
The new agreement, which was reached on March 2, covers over 20,000 employees in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. It was ratified before the current contract expires on April 8, 2017.
Under the terms of the new contract, AT&T has included general wage increases in each year of the contract, plus a $1,000 ratification bonus.
Enhancing health care, job opportunities
The contract also includes what AT&T said is a “robust health care plan” and two weeks of paid parental leave to help mothers and fathers bond with a newborn or newly adopted child.
Additionally, the contract includes a commitment to hire 3,000 people in the Southwest region to fill jobs from work that is mostly performed offshore.
“We have a longstanding good relationship with the CWA in the Southwest, and we worked with the union to bring work opportunities to the region,” said Marty Richter, spokesman for AT&T, in an e-mail to FierceTelecom. “It’s an example of what can be achieved when the two sides work together, and we appreciate the work of the CWA’s Southwest leadership team to make this possible.”
By ratifying this agreement, AT&T has reached, and union-represented employees have ratified, 28 labor agreements between the CWA and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) since the beginning of 2015, covering nearly 123,000 employees.
Western contract battle continues
While ratifying the Southwest contract is a certainly positive hurdle to overcome, AT&T is still in the process of negotiating a contract with its 17,000 wireline employees in California and Nevada.
The West contract expired nearly a year ago, and CWA members have been asking AT&T for a fair contract related to issues like pension, healthcare and wage increases.
On March 23, 17,000 AT&T wireline technicians and call center employees in California and Nevada returned to work after walking off the job the previous morning in protest of the company’s actions.
During the strike, workers at AT&T call centers and offices throughout California and Nevada picketed at dozens of locations across the two states with major picket lines in Los Angeles, Reno, Fresno, Sacramento, Bakersfield, Carson City, Tustin, San Diego and San Francisco.
AT&T CWA-represented technicians, call center representatives and other workers plan to hold a protest in San Jose this month—the one-year anniversary of AT&T technicians and call center representatives working without a contract.
Workers will be joined by CWA union leaders and elected officials from California.
Richter said that the time it is taking to negotiate a contract with the West region is not unusual.
“This CWA group in California and Nevada is an outlier, and lengthy negotiations are not unusual for them,” Ricther said. “The last time we negotiated a contract with this group, in 2012-2013, it took over a year to get a ratified agreement.”
He added that AT&T is offering what the telco said is a “generous package including annual wage and pension increases, as well as comprehensive healthcare benefits, similar to what other employees across the country have ratified in other contracts.”