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After lengthy negotiations, and following a negative report by the National Labor Relations Board, Qwest and CWA agreed to abandon the plan to move 1,000 national network service employees to union positions.

Phyllis Kielblock, Exec. Secr.
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Qwest, union drop plan to shift service workers By Jeff Smith, Rocky Mountain News January 26, 2005

Qwest Communications and the Communications Workers of America have killed plans to shift about 1,000 national network service employees to union positions after an unfavorable finding by the National Labor Relations Board.

Qwest spokeswoman Claire Mylott said Tuesday that the NLRB determined in preliminary findings that it wasn't appropriate to treat the national network employees the same as the unionized local network employees.

"The NLRB determined that (the two groups) have existed and operated essentially independent of each other since the merger of Qwest and U S West (in mid-2000)," Mylott said. "They said the timing doesn't make sense" to change that now.

Although Qwest and CWA could have gone through a formal trial, Mylott said, the parties agreed to abandon the plan. CWA and NLRB officials weren't available for comment.

The decision marks a blow for the CWA, which has been losing members due to cuts and attrition at Qwest over the past several years.

The CWA had argued that the national network service employees, who work in national fiber-optic voice and data network operations, shared a "community of interest" with local network employees already represented by the CWA.

Some national network employees were upset when the plan was announced last fall because they said it would move them to a lower union wage scale.

At the time, union officials emphasized the workers would get more benefits paid for under the union contract, and Qwest said salary implications would be handled on a "case-by-case" basis.

Separately, the CWA also recently feared it would lose 3,000 customer service and sales jobs to contractors, but was able to persuade Qwest to gradually return call-center jobs already contracted out to the bargaining unit as attrition occurs. But new customer service and sales consultants will come into the union at lower overall wage rates.