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Verizon, Unions Reach an Agreement

August 11, 2008
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Related Topics: Benefit Design and Communication, Labor Relations, Workforce Planning, Latest News
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Verizon and the unions that represent 65,000 of its workers reached a new tentative three-year contract agreement Sunday, August 10, that protects union jobs and maintains employer-paid health care while providing cost savings for the company on retirement health care for new hires.

The settlement was announced hours before a union-imposed midnight strike deadline and a little more than a week after the workers agreed to extend negotiations past the August 2 expiration of their last contract.

In what the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are hailing as a major leap forward, Verizon will extend union recognition by the end of the year to 600 former MCI technicians at Verizon Business—including many in New York City— who perform the same jobs as the union workforce. The deal also includes new opportunities for union workers to provide customer support and service at Verizon Business.

“This is a breakthrough agreement in many ways,” said   Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen. “This settlement provides a framework for growth at Verizon and a good standard of living with careers for our members.”

The two sides had tangled over job protection issues, which were the most difficult issues to resolve, CWA officials said.

“We approached the bargaining tables with an interest in solving problems, and the result is an agreement that will keep us focused on delivering to our customers the best in broadband, communications and entertainment,” said Marc C. Reed, executive vice president for human resources, Verizon Communications.

The tentative agreement eliminates subcontracting of work in a number of job areas, converts 900 temporary jobs to permanent ones and brings additional positions associated with Verizon’s FiOS technology into the union bargaining units. Overall, the settlement should create 2,500 new union jobs, the unions said.

Health care had also been a focus of the talks, as Verizon looked to get workers to contribute to help offset increased costs.

The settlement preserves fully paid health care premiums for all active and retired employees. Verizon was able to get the unions to budge on future hires, who will now have to contribute to their retirement health care plans.

Verizon and the unions agreed to work together effort to achieve national health care reform. The company will provide $2 million per year to the effort.

Wages will increase nearly 11 percent over the three-year contract term. The workers, including 15,000 in the New York City area, will vote on whether to ratify the deal over the next several weeks.

“The money was where we wanted it to be, and the benefits were where we wanted them to be,” said Jerome Paredes, a Bronx field technician. “We’re not walking, which is good news.”

Filed by Daniel Massey of Crain’s New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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