With Verizon Unwavering In Its Contempt for Fair Contract Offers, the IBEW and CWA Could Again Walk Out On the Telecom Giant as Early as Friday
Last year, 45,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) walked out after Verizon demanded billions in concessions despite high profits. With no new contract in place, history is likely to repeat itself come Friday if the telecommunications goliath continues to impose unfair terms in its “final offer.”
With 12 months of stalled negotiations since the strike, many believe Verizon is willing to hold out in an attempt to break the union. According to Labor Notes:
“It’s cut and dried that they want to break us,” said Billy Gallagher, a CWA negotiator. Within a couple of weeks after the strike last year, he said, the company “went back to stripping 50 years of contract language.”
At stake for workers is not only cuts to their health care benefits and pensions but a proposed deregulation of standards governing Verizon’s ability to “contract out” work. If Verizon is allowed to do so it could be the end of the (land)line for 45,000 union workers. As we suggested last month, Verizon is purposefully trying to kill off its DSL service in order to get rid of the union workers in its landline division.
“We’re ready to go out and fight if we have to,” said Al Russo, vice president of CWA Local 1101 in New York. He said that in order to outsource more jobs, Verizon wants to implement “call sharing,” meaning that the company could direct incoming sales and service calls anywhere, including contractors. “We couldn’t even find out where the work is,” said Russo.
Concurrent with the contract drama, Verizon is attempting to seal a deal with four major cable providers to sell each others services. The fate of the deal is currently in the hands of federal regulators. Union workers are calling on the FCC and the Department of Justice to stop the deal claiming that it would create a monopoly.
The negotiations between the IBEW/CWA and Verizon went to mediation two weeks ago. No deal was reached:
“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. The negotiations have been constructive and progress has been made, but significant key issues remain to be resolved.”
The negotiations took place after the release of Verizon’s quarterly earnings.
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.
While progress is being alleged, worker representatives are calling the company’s current offer “completely horrendous.” With profits high and the proposed deal likely to make competition low it is rather ostentatious for Verizon to demand such cuts.
New hires would have no pension, just a 401(k) plan, while many current workers would have their pensions frozen. On health care, “it’s not really about premiums,” Gallagher said. “It’s about gutting the medical plan and making it so expensive many won’t use it.”
The company would also take away some sick days, cut disability benefits in half, and even eliminate a death benefit.
If workers walkout on Friday, the Verizon ordeal could become one of the most buzzed about issues at this weekend’s Workers Stand for America rally where the IBEW will be well-represented.