Qwest, unions schedule all-day talks; hope to avoid strike

Qwest and its chief union, the Communications Workers of America, say negotiations to avoid a strike have picked up speed. Both sides are hoping for a new deal before the contract for roughly 20,000 CWA members and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers expires at 12:01 a.m. MT Sunday. 

Negotiators met twice on Thursday, and a CWA spokesman said that talks are likely to run through today and into Saturday. Both sides say they are looking to resolve the deal quickly and avoid a work stoppage. Qwest operates in 13 Midwestern and Western states.

Qwest's negotiations follow on the heels of those at Verizon, which wrapped up last week with a tentative deal. As in those talks, health care and job security are major sticking points. The Denver-based company -- which has no wireless unit like AT&T and Verizon to make up for its deteriorated landline business -- has had to cut its workforce dramatically over the past several years to stay in business. Analysts say the CWA will likely allow more latitude in its talks with Qwest than it did with the more secure Verizon.

"Qwest needs as much relief as possible," said Zachary Investment Research Analyst Patrick Comack.

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