Verizon, wireline unions continue negotiations, but lock horns on healthcare, outsourcing jobs and pensions

Representatives from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) continued to lock horns with Verizon (NYSE: VZ) management in Philadelphia over the wireline workforce's health care, pension and job security.

On Friday, the third day that Verizon's wireline workforce has been on a work strike, the unions and Mid-Atlantic Bargaining Committee met with the company.

CWA and IBEW met with Verizon to discuss the contract covering workers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, D.C., Virginia and West Virginia. Union representatives noted that after the two sides could not come to an agreement, company executives left for the weekend.

"Workers already have put hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare cost savings on the table. We simply cannot compromise on contract changes that would ship more work overseas and have our families separated for months at a time," said Ed Mooney, VP of CWA District 2-13, in a release.

One of the initial issues that the unions' bargaining team raised during this meeting was to ask Verizon to withdraw several of its proposals regarding the IME (Independent Medical Examination) and Evaluative Observations. According to a CWA report, Verizon refused to comply with the unions' request.

Other issues included contracting call center work and transferring outside plant technicians and repairmen to other parts of a state or other states outside of their home state.

CWA said that Verizon has "not agreed to staff to the number of employees necessary to handle the work volume that originates in the Mid-Atlantic Region."

A number of employees have expressed concern about when they have to go to another location to conduct work as it takes them away from their families for days and sometimes weeks at a time.

Job security is a key issue related to transferring workers to other regions to perform network installation and maintenance.

Verizon, according to the CWA, has tied a proposal to transfer employees across state lines to existing job security.

This provision was tied to the merger of the then-GTE and Bell Atlantic which called for network technicians to commute to "a new work location or work assignments taking them away from their family for weeks at a time."

Already, Verizon is seeing the immediate effects of the strike. New FiOS Internet and TV customers are seeing service installation delays.

Richard Evert, a Washington, D.C., resident was among some of FiOS customers that have been impacted by the installation delays. Having ordered Verizon's FiOS service in early April, Evert told local CBS station WUSA 9 that his service was supposed to be installed on April 13, the same day workers represented by CWA and IBEW called for the strike.

While Verizon would not provide information on how many customer installations are being affected by the strike, Verizon told Reuters that it should be back on track with new installations in the next week or so.

In any given week, Verizon conducts about 30,000 to 35,000 installations, with over 30 percent of customers opting to install services themselves.

For more:
- see this CWA release

Special Report: Verizon-CWA 2016 strike full coverage

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