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Jul
2015
15

Scabblerouser: Verizon Preparing to Train 15K Non-Union Replacement Workers As Bargaining Tactic

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Verizon is moving forward with a contingency plan to train 15,000 replacement workers in the event that contract talks with 38,000 wireline workers represented by the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) don’t turn out how the company would like.  Verizon is currently working on a three-year deal with CWA and IBEW wireline workers. This is a sector of the industry the company is looking to exit.  

Verizon spokesman Richard Young said of the plans:

“Verizon is in the process of training more than 15,000 nonunion company employees to provide backfill and to ensure the continuation of services, in the event of a work stoppage by the unions. These employees are receiving training in various customer service functions, repair and maintenance and in other areas. We need to ensure that any dispute between our company and the unions does not impact our customers.”

Bob Master, the legislative and political director for CWA District One, dismissed the news as a mere bargaining tactic. He suggests the company would be better off using its time finding creative solutions to its problems:

“This is nothing new. We prepare to do whatever is necessary to win a good contract, management responds.  But rather than focus on strike preparations, the company should be focusing on bargaining constructively to reach a fair contract that protects workers’ job security and standard of living, and ensures that all the customers in Verizon’s footprint are guaranteed access to state of the art fiber optic broadband services.”

According to FierceTelecom, Verizon’s offer includes wage increases.  CWA dismissed the proposal, however, noting that the wage increases were a way for Verizon to disguise the major concessions that they are asking for concerning health benefits, pensions, and job security.  Following the initial offer in late June, CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor said Verizon’s proposal would actually do more harm than good:

Verizon’s claims about the pay increases they put on the bargaining table yesterday are simply a smokescreen designed to hide the harsh reality of their concessionary demands; deep cuts to pension benefits, skyrocketing increases in medical costs, and the complete elimination of job security.  Despite $9.6 billion in profits in 2014 and $44 million in compensation to their top five executives, Verizon wants to eliminate middle-class jobs and let customer service deteriorate.”

Some CWA locals, such as the CWA Local 1300 in Philadelphia, have already sent out strike authorization ballots.  While voting “yes” for strike authorization does not mean that the workers will go on strike, it does confirm that they support the bargaining unit’s actions to the fullest.  Ballots must be returned by July 21st.  

Verizon wireline workers last went on strike in August of 2011.  That action led to Verizon’s stock market value dropping two percent.

In a statement, Verizon’s Richard Young tried to shield the company from anti-union claims in the face of ‘scabs’ being trained:

“Verizon recognizes and respects the right of workers to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.  We have a long history of working successfully with the CWA and IBEW, and we expect that to happen this time as well. However, keep in mind, we provide critical communications services of millions of consumers and businesses, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even while we’re engaged in the bargaining process, we must still take appropriate measures that make certain our customers are not affected by any disruption in usual business activities.”

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