Verizon, two unions reach tentative deal

IBEW Local 827 president Bill Huber posing by a Verizon pay phone in Center City. The IBEW agreed to the draft deal.
IBEW Local 827 president Bill Huber posing by a Verizon pay phone in Center City. The IBEW agreed to the draft deal. (TOM GRALISH / Staff)
Posted: September 21, 2012

After last year's two-week strike and more than a year of bargaining, Verizon Communications Inc. and two unions primarily involved with Verizon's landline business reached a tentative agreement Wednesday, the company and unions said.

Besides an $800 onetime signing bonus and $700 in annual profit sharing, the agreement, which covers 43,000 workers in the mid-Atlantic states and New England, provides an 8.2 percent increase over three years and continues pensions for current workers. New workers will be moved into a 401(k)-type plan. The agreement also protects employees hired before 2003 from layoffs. The contract will expire Aug. 1, 2015.

The unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications Workers of America, were forced to agree to greater member contributions for health-care coverage.

"There are obviously positives in this contract and there are some challenges that our members will have to deal with," said Jim Gardler, of Philadelphia, president of Local 13000 of the Communication Workers of America, representing Pennsylvania.

"We believe this is a fair and balanced agreement that is good for our employees as well as for the future of the Wireline business," Marc Reed, Verizon's chief administrative officer, said in a statement issued by the company.

The agreement covers the majority of workers. However, Verizon and IBEW are still finalizing details of a separate agreement covering 6,000 IBEW members in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

While the agreements, which will go up for ratification votes in the next month, provide some stability, they do not address the underlying problem facing Verizon's unionized workforce.

Verizon has managed to close off unions from the majority of its wireless business, which is the growing component of its revenues.

The unionized workforce covered by this contract is about half the size it was a decade ago, said Bob Master, a CWA official in New York.

"We need to focus, going forward, on bringing in those jobs," he said, referring both to unionizing Verizon employees on the wireless side and pushing Verizon to bring back union jobs that it gave to nonunion contractors.

Gardler and Michael Davis, another regional official, said the contract includes protections for Verizon call-center jobs in Pennsylvania.

Verizon workers went on strike Aug. 6, 2011. The strike prompted accusations and counter-accusations of violence and vandalism.

After two weeks, the strikers returned to work under terms of their old contract, while negotiators bargained, mostly fruitlessly.

Two months ago, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service got involved, pushing eight weeks of intense contract talks.


Contact Jane M. Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing.

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