Last week, thousands of AT&T technicians and call center workers at more than 100 sites in Nevada and California staged a walk out to protest an unresolved contract dispute and a memo sent by AT&T Vice President Betsy Farrel. The well-orchestrated mass action comes as several months of negotiations between the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the company remain stagnant. From the Contra Costa Times, which got a copy of the memo:
In the memo, which was obtained by this paper, AT&T Vice President Betsy Farrell complained that recent “union activity has caused some of you to make a choice not to serve our customers. Given comments I have heard from many of you regarding the importance of providing good customer service, I’m a bit puzzled about why you would leave customers without service we committed we would provide them.
“The company doesn’t suffer. In fact, these actions help us financially when we don’t pay you.”
AT&T officials refused to comment on the memo, but CWA spokeswoman Libby Sayre responded on behalf of the workers:
“It’s a slap in the face. These guys work very hard to provide quality customer service; they don’t need a lot of insults and provocation.”
While this was only a one day walkout, AT&T spokesman Marty Richter revealed that the company has plans to deal with a longer term work stoppage should one arise:
“We have systematically and thoroughly prepared for a potential work stoppage, and we have a substantial contingency workforce of well-trained managers and vendors in place,” Richter said. “We will make every effort to deliver the great service to which our customers are accustomed.”
The two sides are at odds about what the workers are paid. Not surprisingly, management is representing a number far above what union members say they actually take home:
Richter said network technicians make $90,000 a year in wages, and $43,000 in benefits. Call center representatives are paid $67,000 in wages and $40,000 in benefits, he said.
CWA’s Sayre disagreed. She said top pay for the longest-term technicians is $260 a day or $32 an hour, which comes to $64,000 a year. “I don’t know how he can get them to these astronomical numbers. Nobody is getting rich other than AT&T management.”