IBEW Uses Layoffs to Slam Verizon-SpectrumCo Deal

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The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, still deadlocked in contract talks with Verizon, is using recent job cuts at Verizon in New England and New Jersey to argue against the government approving the telco's planned purchase of wireless spectrum from cable operators (SpectrumCo.). Verizon says there is no connection, and any suggestion otherwise is not true.

IBEW says the company announced more than 600 job cuts last week, which threatens its future build-out of Verizon FiOs, something activist groups and some legislators have expressed concerns about. Speaking on background, a Verizon exec said the goal is to cut about 1,700 jobs in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and some in the Southern region through a voluntary buyout, with layoffs coming into play if they do not reach that target. Employees who take the buyout would leave by the end of June or mid-July.

The union links the cutbacks to the cable spectrum deal. "At the same time Verizon is cutting its work force, the company's wireless division continues to lobby for its proposed monopoly with Comcast and Time Warner -- a deal which would end competition, raise prices and discontinue the development of a high-speed Internet infrastructure."

"It will give Big Cable an unfair advantage in the marketplace, which means higher rates and fewer options for consumers, while stranding many communities with a 20th century telecommunications system," says IBEW local 827's Bill Huber in a statement. "If this deal goes through, it's the end of genuine competition."

Big Cable in this case is Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Bright House, which have struck a deal to collect just south of $4 billion for advanced wireless services spectrum they bought at auction in the summer of 2006.

"There is absolutely no connection between this reduction and SpectrumCo or any other program or effort going on at Verizon and it is inaccurate to portray it in any such way," Verizon spokesman Richard Young told Multichannel News.

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