Verizon braces for work stoppage as CWA union members approve strike authorization

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is bracing for a possible strike in its wireline division as 86 percent of the union members represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) voted to authorize a strike, should current negotiations for a new contract remain stalled.

The current contract, which covers 39,000 CWA and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) workers, expires on midnight on Saturday, Aug. 1.

Dennis Trainor, vice president for CWA District 1, said in a release that the two sides have not been able to come to an agreement over key issues including health care and retirement benefits.

Job security is another issue CWA cited. Along with health care, Verizon is asking the union workers for deep concessions.

CWA said that the telco has asked union workers to increase the contributions they make to health care, a process that it said will result in higher deductibles, co-pays and premium sharing. 

The union added that the telco also wants to remove its right to negotiate retiree health care and to make concessions on pensions.

"Our members are clear and they are determined--they reject management's harsh concessionary demands, including the elimination of job security, sharp increases in workers' health care costs, and slashing retirement security," Trainor said in a release. "Verizon made $9.6 billion in profits in 2014, and reported $4.4 billion in profits just in the 2015 second quarter alone. Their demands are completely outrageous and unwarranted."

Rich Young, a Verizon spokesman, told FierceTelecom in an e-mail that the union should refocus their attention on working with the telco to resolve their issues.

"We believe their time would be far more beneficial focusing on the important contractual issues that need to be resolved," Young wrote in an e-mail to FierceTelecom.

For its part Verizon said it has provided the two unions with a fair agreement that included raises and new pension and profit sharing components.

In June, the service provider proposed a new agreement covering these workers that included three elements: a 2 percent wage increase effective Aug. 2, 2015; a 2 percent increase one year later; and a $1,000 lump sum payment in the third year.

CWA said that the initial proposal was another way the company was trying to shield their desire for concessions on medical, pensions and job security.

"Verizon has presented the CWA and IBEW with a solid proposal that recognizes the changing communications landscape and offers a path towards success," Young wrote. "Rather than yelling on the streets of New York, we hope the unions work with us on ways that will continue to ensure solid, upper middle-class jobs for our employees and exceptional services for our customers."

In the event that a strike was to occur, the service provider has been training over 15,000 non-union employees to fill in with repair and customer service roles to ensure service continuity.

For more:
- see the release

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