About 40,000 Verizon workers launch strike - Metro US

About 40,000 Verizon workers launch strike

Derek Kouyoumjian

The people who install Verizon’s home phone, TV and Internet services launched a strike on Wednesday after unions and management failed to reach an agreement on a new labor contract.

Ray McConville, a labor and corporate spokesman for Verizon, said that more than 36,000 employees from Massachusetts to Virginia went on strike Wednesday, but that Verizon had made preparations for the strike and home services would not be interrupted.

“From our perspective, we don’t think it’s a productive way to advance bargaining,”McConvillesaid.

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“We think they should focus their energy in good faith and reach a contract that’s fair on both sides. Their claim is that they’ve exhausted every option and that this was their only measure,” he said. “If that was true, the question is, why reject our offer? We successfully reached an agreement the last go ’round.”

McConville said New York had the highest number on strike, with about 13,900 employees. Pennsylvania was next with 4,600 on strike, followed by Massachusetts with 4,400.

“We’re more than prepared to deal with the strike,” he said.

“We go into every contract negotiation preparing for the possibility…We’ll be able to serve our customers with minimal disruption.”

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) had called for a strike on Monday after an impasse in contract talks.

The unions jointly represent nearly 40,000 employees in Verizon’s wireline operations, which include Fios Internet, telephone and TV services.

“Verizon has forced us there. … Nobody wants to go on strike,” CWA President Chris Shelton said. “It’s a hardship for our members and our families, it’s a hardship for customers.”

Verizon and the unions, which represent Verizon workers from states such as Massachusetts, Virginia, New York and Rhode Island, have been in talks over the company’s plans to cut healthcare and pension-related benefits over a three-year period since June. Wireline workers have been working out of contract since the last agreement expired in August.

While a compromise on healthcare plans has been reached, disputes over offshoring call center jobs and pensions still remain, union representatives said.

“We’ve tried to work with union leaders to reach a deal,” Marc Reed, Verizon’s chief administrative officer, said in a company statement.

The last round of contract negotiations in 2011 also led to a strike.

“The company’s greed is disgusting,” IBEW Local 2222 said in a statement on its website.

“[The CEO] made $18 million last year – more than 200 times the compensation of the average Verizone employee…but they claim they can’t afford a fair contract.”

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“We are available,” said Verizon spokesman Rich Young, when asked about the outlook for negotiations. He said no further talks were currently scheduled with the unions, however.

Verizon said the wireline business generated about 29 percent of its revenue in 2015 but less than 7 percent of operating income. Wireline workers perform network maintenance, among other duties, and also provide customer service at call centers.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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