Two unions representing 65,000 Verizon Communications workers gave the telephone company until 12:01 a.m. Monday, Aug. 11, to reach an agreement and warned that “strike action then becomes possible if a fair settlement is not reached.”
The current contract between Verizon and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) was set to expire at midnight last Saturday, Aug. 3, but the unions agreed to hold off on a strike while negotiations continued in Washington, D.C.
The Aug. 11 deadline was set by the unified bargaining committees of the CWA and IBEW. The majority of the CWA and IBEW members employed in Verizon’s telecom unit have authorized a strike if negotiations fail, and a strike date would be set by the two union presidents in consultation with the bargaining committees, the unions said.
Verizon chief communications officer Peter Thonis said in a statement that the company was “very surprised, given the situation.”
“We and the union leadership have been making consistent progress and have resolved most of the important issues,” Thonis said. “This has been a complex process involving several bargaining tables and a number of local matters, which we are respectfully addressing. Verizon is committed to continuing to negotiate for as long as it takes to complete the process.”
The unions acknowledged that negotiations are continuing at this time, but said progress has been “slow.” Among the main issues CWA and IBEW are pressing for are job security, health care and retirement benefits and a fair wage settlement.
Sanford Bernstein senior analyst Craig Moffett, in a report last month, wrote that “a work stoppage, should it come to that, would likely mean an effective halt to Verizon's wireline growth initiatives FiOS and DSL.”