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Verizon, Unions Reach Tentative 5-Year Deal

September 05, 2003|From Associated Press

A tentative five-year agreement was reached Thursday between Verizon Communications Inc. and unions that provides raises and job protections for 78,000 East Coast telephone technicians and operators.

The deal comes more than a month after contracts expired and the unions threatened to strike. Peter J. Hurtgen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, joined the contentious talks to successfully avert an Aug. 3 walkout.

Members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers still must approve the agreement, which includes 27 separate local contracts.

"I think everyone was mindful of the enormous stakes, not just for labor-management in this situation, but for its potential effect on telecommunications in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic," Hurtgen said.

Preserved in the agreement are provisions that protect workers from layoffs and prohibit transfers out of communities without employee consent. However, workers hired after the contracts take effect would not have those protections.

The deal also provides for annual, structured talks on jobs and wages to "mutually assess changes in the economy and the competitive environment and to balance any basic wage increase above 2% against the needs of the company to reduce the size of the workforce," Verizon said.

But the contracts would remain in place if both sides did not agree on changes.

"This landmark agreement is fair for employees and at the same time helps Verizon remain competitive in these very challenging times," said Lawrence T. Babbio, Verizon's vice chairman and president.

Workers would receive immediate cash bonuses of 3%, or an average of $1,600, upon approval of the contracts. Base wages would then increase 2% annually, for a total of 8% during the contracts.

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