Verizon, Unions Back At Bargaining Table On Day Three Of Strike

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Verizon Communications executives were scheduled to continue talks Tuesday with officials of two unions representing 45,000 workers, who are now in the third day of their walkout.

The telco's management met Monday with leaders of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at the Hilton Westchester hotel in Rye Brook, N.Y.

"We spent the entire day discussing all the issues that are on the New York/New England table and the Mid-Atlantic table," the CWA and IBEW said in a joint update issued at 1 a.m. Tuesday. "The Union is trying to limit the issues at both of these tables by convincing the company to withdraw many of their retrogressive demands. We recessed at 11:30 PM and we are scheduled to reconvene in the morning."

Verizon and the unions also are meeting in Philadelphia.

The two sides held "high-level discussions" Monday, Verizon spokesman Rich Young said. "We'll continue talking as long as the unions are willing to negotiate with an open mind."

A key point of dispute is Verizon's demand that union workers pay health-care premiums. The unions also object to the company's proposals to freeze existing pension plans and be able to implement more flexible work rules.

The unions have pointed out that Verizon's 2011 annualized revenue is approximately $108 billion and annualized net profit is $6 billion. The telco's demands "will strip away 50 years of contract gains," according to a CWA statement.

Verizon said it identified at least 12 acts of sabotage against its network and equipment on Saturday and Sunday, and the company also accused union members of illegally blocking access to some facilities. The telco obtained a statewide injunction in Pennsylvania against illegal picketing activities, and it said it is pursuing similar action in other states.

Verizon will take out full-page ads in Wednesday editions of newspapers in the region announcing a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any individuals responsible for sabotaging the company's networks and faculties, according to Young.

The CWA and IBEW said their members are expected to obey the law. The unions also cited cases of their members being injured while on the picket lines by vehicles driven by Verizon replacement workers.

Of the 45,000 Verizon wireline employees on strike, the CWA represents about 33,000 and the IBEW represents about 12,000.