Verizon Striking Workers to Return Without Contract

CWA takes issue with Telco's statement that it convinced unions to begin good-faith bargaining 
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Some 45,000 striking Verizon employees will be returning to work Monday night (Aug. 22) without a new contract, according to the company, while the unions representing those workers took issue with Verizon's characterization of that return to work.

Verizon said Saturday in a release that wireline employees represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers agreed to return to work after both sides agreed to "a process for moving forward to negotiate the major issues regarding benefits, cost structure, work flexibility and job security," Verizon said in a statement.

The workers will be working under the terms of their old contract, which expired Aug. 6. Verizon said it would work quickly to handle any backlog of repairs or service requests.

"We agreed to end the strike because we believe that is in the best interest of our customers and our employees," said Marc Reed, Verizon's EVP of human resources. "We are grateful to our management team for their leadership during the past 14 days in so ably meeting the needs of our customers. The team's competence, dedication and hard work enabled us to withstand the strike without significant disruption to customer service, and to convince the unions to begin bargaining with us in good faith."

But in a statement on its website, the CWA took issue with Reed's statement and also said the return date was Aug. 23.

"We are disappointed to see this quote from Marc Reed, that the company hoped 'to convince the unions to begin bargaining with us in good faith.' It is both inaccurate and insulting," the CWA said. "We agreed with management not to claim victory in changing the process, reinstituting the contract or shaping our goals. We will live by that commitment... Reed's comment if not retracted means that we will be prepared to fight and fight hard whenever necessary if Verizon believes it can resume negotiations on that basis."

The strike had gotten ugly, with Verizon threatening to cut off health-care benefits to any workers still not on the job after Aug. 31.

Verizon has been seeking a number of concessions from the striking workers, including requiring them to pay health-care premiums, reducing sick days, and freezing pensions while the company would provide up to a 9% match for 401(k) plans.

Verizon has claimed it has identified at least 170 acts of sabotage against its network facilities during the strike, though the unions said they did not condone those actions.

Todd Spangler (Multichannel News) contributed to this report.

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