Special Report: The CWA AT&T contract negotiation saga
The executive board at the Communications Workers of America (CWA) authorized Friday a strike against AT&T operations in five regions if an agreement is not reached before the current contract expires. The action means a strike could take place at any or all of the AT&T operations once the CWA president sets a strike date or dates.
Negotiations cover 125,000 CWA represented workers covered by six contracts; AT&T Southeast's contract doesn't expire until August 8, but the five other contracts expire on Saturday, April 4, at 11:59 p.m.
"Negotiations are continuing but we're very far apart on several important issues. It's time for management to get serious and step up the pace of bargaining if we're going to reach an agreement at contract expiration," said CWA Executive Vice President Annie Hill in the statement issued on Friday.
CWA members had voted by 88 percent to give its leaders authorization to call a strike if acceptable contracts can't be worked out.
The biggest areas of disagreement are in health care and job security. AT&T wants to shift health care benefit costs onto workers and retirees, but the union isn't budging, citing AT&T's $12.9 billion profits in 2008.
Ironically, on the same day, AT&T was citing the success of a ratified contract between the company and its wireless workers represented by CWA under the Mobility Orange agreement.
High-stakes poker is at work on both sides. Rumors suggest that if an agreement isn't reached, talks would be called off for 60 days and/or AT&T would lock union workers out for 60 days.
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