Verizon today announced that the approximately 45,000 wireline employees represented by the CWA and IBEW that have ben on strike, will return to work beginning Monday night, August 22nd, without new collective bargaining agreements.
Since the strike began two weeks ago, Verizon has been battling criminal acts of sabotage against its network facilities and union picketers intimidating non-union replacement workers and illegally blocking garage and work center entrances. One union picketer even went as far as to instruct his young daughter to stand in front of a Verizon truck to illegally block it from coming back to a Verizon work center in New Jersey. While his daughter stood as a human shield, the union picketer used extremely profane language in an attempt intimidate the replacement workers while his daughter watched.
Verizon said the wireline employees now on strike would be working under the terms of the contracts that expired on Saturday, August 6th. The contracts will be extended with no specific deadline for achieving new collective bargaining agreements so that the parties can take the time required to resolve the critical issues, the company said.
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According to a statement from Verizon on Saturday afternoon, Verizon and the unions have made headway in negotiating a number of local and regional issues, and both parties have agreed on a process for moving forward to negotiate the major issues regarding benefits, cost structure, work flexibility and job security. While there are a number of sticking points preventing both sides from coming to an agreement, one of the biggest issues at stake is around health care.
“While the cost of healthcare continues to increase at rate of 8-10% per year, Verizon’s union employees pay nothing toward their healthcare premiums. Verizon pays more than $4 billion annually on healthcare,” a Verizon spokesperson told SecurityWeek recently. “Verizon has 196,000 employees, and 135,000 of those contribute to healthcare, except for our union represented employees who pay nothing toward healthcare premiums,” the spokesperson added.
Marc Reed, Verizon’s executive vice president of human resources, said, “We agreed to end the strike because we believe that is in the best interest of our customers and our employees. We remain committed to our objectives, and we look forward to negotiating the important issues that are integral to the future health of Verizon’s wireline business.”
The workers on strike work for Verizon’s wireline business, a business that has shrunk by more than half over the past ten years as customers move to wireless lines and VOIP lines. The majority of company profits that union employees are up in arms about, comes from the company’s wireless business.
With its union-represented employees back at work, Verizon said it plans to quickly address repair backlogs in and unfulfilled requests for service.