Verizon braces for potential labor strike as CWA, IBEW union negotiations continue

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is putting together a contingency plan if 38,000 of its union workers represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) decide to strike.

The service provider, which is negotiating a new contract with the CWA and IBEW, has been training over 15,000 non-union employees to fill in if a strike occurs.

"Verizon is in the process of training more than 15,000 nonunion company employees to provide backfill and to ensure the continuation of services, in the event of a work stoppage by the unions," Verizon spokesman Richard Young told RCR Wireless News.

Young added that it is training these employees to serve in a number of functions including customer service, repair and maintenance, and other areas in order to "ensure that any dispute between our company and the unions does not impact our customers."

Bob Master, legislative and political director for CWA District One, dismissed Verizon's efforts as nothing more than another bargaining tactic.

"This is nothing new. We prepare to do whatever is necessary to win a good contract, management responds," said Master. "But rather than focus on strike preparations, the company should be focusing on bargaining constructively to reach a fair contract that protects workers' job security and standard of living, and ensures that all the customers in Verizon's footprint are guaranteed access to state of the art fiber optic broadband services."

Young told FierceTelecom in an e-mail that while the union refers to our training as a "bargaining tactic," Verizon provides communications services to millions of consumers and businesses, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"We cannot take the union's misguided strike threats for granted," Young wrote. "We take our customer obligations very seriously and that compels us to appropriate steps that will ensure that those who rely on our services are not impacted by strikes or other workplace disruptions."

In August 2011, 45,000 union wireline workers went on strike after the two sides failed to reach an agreement for a labor contract that had previously expired. The strike had consequences for Verizon, which saw its stock drop 2 percent, while a number of employees were not paid during the strike.

More recently, Verizon proposed a new three-year contract with 38,000 union wireline employees represented by the CWA and IBEW it says will offer wage increases during the period. However, CWA dismissed Verizon's initial proposal as a way to shield the fact that they want a number of concessions on key issues such as medical, pensions and job security.

For more:
- RCR Wireless has this article

Related articles:
CWA says Verizon's initial union contract proposals are a 'smokescreen'
Verizon proposes three-year agreement for 38,000 union workers
Verizon union negotiations begin amidst charges of failing on copper, FiOS commitments
New York City audit says Verizon failed to deliver on FiOS promise
CWA accuses Verizon of abandoning broken wireline facilities in the Northeast

This article was updated on July 10 with additional information from Verizon.