Verizon, CWA, IBEW to reignite labor contract negotiations

Verizon store front (Monica Alleven)

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and representatives of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) representing nearly 40,000 wireline workers in the Northeast have agreed to come to the negotiating table again.

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez met with Lowell McAdam, chairman and CEO of Verizon; Chris Shelton, president of the Communications Workers of America; and Lonnie Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

During the meeting, the three parties said they agreed to find a way to resolve their disputes and return to the bargaining table on Tuesday to continue talks.

"The parties had an open, frank and constructive dialogue about finding a comprehensive way forward to resolve disputed issues and get people back to work," Perez said.

After not being able to negotiate what the CWA and IBEW deemed a fair contract with Verizon, the company's wireline workers began their strike on April 13. Workers represented by the CWA and IBEW unions had been working without a contract since August.

Some of the main issues that remain a concern for CWA and IBEW members are Verizon's move to offshore 5,000 jobs to the Philippines, Mexico and other locations, outsource work to low-wage contractors, and transfer workers to other states, which keeps workers away from their families for months at a time.

Verizon said there are health care issues that need to be addressed for both retirees and workers as medical costs have risen in recent years.

Since the strike began over a month ago, a contentious war of words has arisen between the wireline workers and Verizon.

A number of CWA members claimed that replacement workers hired by the telco to handle repairs and installations on its wireline networks failed to abide by "basic safety practices."

At the same time, the telco reported a rash of fiber cuts on its Northeast wireline network have risen with over 150 incidents reported in as Boston, New YorkPittsburgh and Delaware, cutting off service for hundreds of customers.

This is the second time that Verizon workers went on strike after not being able to negotiate a contract.

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 expired.  

But two weeks later, the two unions said they decided to end the strike because it appeared that Verizon wanted to "bargain seriously."

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