Verizon walkout looms if mediation fails; mediator says 'significant key issues' remain

A walkout by Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) 45,000 CWA and IBEW workers is becoming more of a possiblity, according to statements by union officials and mediators, because negotiations for a new contract since last year's strike have gone nowhere.

"For the past ten days, the parties have been engaged in continuous negotiations under the auspices of myself and Director of Mediation Services John Pinto," said Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George Cohen in a statement released Friday. "The negotiations have been constructive and progress has been made, but significant key issues remain to be resolved."

Negotiations between Verizon and the labor unions resumed Monday.

Health care and pensions continue to be major pain points for both sides, and may be too significant to be resolved this week, according to an article on the negotiations.

"It's cut and dried that they want to break us," said CWA negotiator Billy Gallagher in the article.

The union and Verizon agreed to mediation two weeks ago.

"The mediator has a plan to bang heads together, but that doesn't mean the company will relent," Bob Master, political director of CWA District 1 said.

The negotiations come in the wake of Verizon's second quarter earnings report, where the company announced profits of $1.8 billion. The article also cited union concerns that the carrier's top five executives were paid $258 million over the last five years. The union brouhaha also comes as the carrier's wireless arm attempts to work a marketing agreement with cable companies to bundle wireless phone with cable's wireline packages. This, the unions have said, would effectively kill Verizon's competitive FiOS broadband video service and cause the layoffs of FiOS workers. The unions have opposed the marketing agreement.

In other union news, AT&T (NYSE: T) and the CWA agreed late Saturday to a five-day contract extension for 22,000 employees in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Barring settlement by 11:59 p.m. Thursday, there could be some interesting developments in that region as well.

For more:
- see this story
- the FMCS statement
- and this news release

Special report: Verizon Strike: Full coverage

Related articles:
AT&T, CWA hammer out tentative wireline labor agreements
Verizon rejects unions' request for federal mediation in protracted labor talks
AT&T, IBEW agree on 1-year contract extension, CWA negotiations ongoing