AT&T union talks affecting 112,500 proceed

Fresh off a new contract agreement for its wireless unit workforce, AT&T has five regional union contracts affecting 112,500 wireline workers up for renewal on April 4. The telco is talking to the Communications Workers of America union about those five contracts and a sixth one that isn't due to expire for another few months.

Some observers believe the company is in a strong negotiating position, in part because of the ongoing challenges in the wireline market and also because of the overall sour economy.  

The Associated Press reports that CWA membership went on a four-day strike five years ago the last time these particular contracts were up for renewal. This time around, AT&T, according to the AP, is seeking concessions on health benefits, including retiree health benefits, an area that has been subject to disputes between several telcos and their workforce in the last year or so. Health benefits are among several issues that have made recent contract negotiations at Verizon Communications, Qwest Communications and elsewhere particularly intense.

At the same time, the causes of the country's most powerful unions are being challenged by the current recession and the difficulties in the auto industry, where union contracts have been a target for some of the backlash against GM as it seeks to make its case for government financial assistance. Yet, relatively speaking, telecom companies like AT&T are coming through the recession in much better financial shape thus far, so maybe the employer's apparent leverage won't amount to much in this case.  

For more:
- The Associated Press has this story  

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