CWA, AT&T make headway in contract talks

AT&T reported significant progress over the weekend with CWA District 4 and District 9 regarding contracts for unionized wireline employees that have been under negotiation for more than four months. CWA District 4, which represents about 18,500 AT&T employees in the Midwest, reported its membership overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract tentatively approved by District 4 leadership and AT&T July 15. CWA District 9, which represents about 23,000 wireline employees in California, Nevada and Hawaii, also announced this weekend it had reached a tentative agreement with AT&T.

Details of this agreement have not been released yet, but AT&T spokesman Walt Sharp and CWA spokeswoman Candice Johnson both said details would be made available Monday afternoon. Sharp said the company was very pleased by the developments, and reiterated that the company felt these offers were very good and generous, especially during the profound recession.

"These are excellent contract offers in this sort of economic times," Sharp said. "By preserving pension protection, offering wage increases, and maintaining health care coverage, albeit with a slightly larger employee contribution level, this contract ranks among the best in the nation."

While Johnson hesitated to qualify the contract as among the best in the nation, she did say that the ratified contract met the needs of the affected workers and their families. "The contract met our member's key goals and maintains key objectives, as it secures or maintains health care coverage for working families, and the wage increases and pension improvements are a plus," Johnson said. "It also includes some important employment security provisions, including the ability to transfer to different areas of the company if an employee's current job is being eliminated. The nature of this work changes so fast, and employees have the opportunity to do ongoing training and move into the new areas of the company that technology creates."

In other developments, Sharp said the contract for CWA District 3, which represents about 32,000 employees in the Southeast, expired at 11:59 p.m. August 8. He said negotiations continue in that region, and he added that they are respectful in tone and will continue until an agreement is reached. Reports from the Miami Herald however, indicated that employees in this region might be on the verge of striking.

The newspaper quotes the president of a Miami-based CWA local, Don Abicht, who said employees in his shop would go on strike today at 7 a.m. if a contract was not reached. There have been no indications, however, that employees there have made any movements to strike.

Sharp had no comment about the impact of District 4's ratification and District 9's tentative agreement on the other CWA Districts currently continuing negotiations. 

For more:
- see the District 4 press release here
- see the District 9 press release here
- see the Miami Herald article here 

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