Qwest union rejects contract
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
of Qwest Communications' largest union have rejected a contract
that would have increased wages by 9.73 percent over three years
but required health care premium-sharing for the first time.
"It wasn't close," Al Kogler, spokesman for District 7 of the
Communications Workers of America, said Tuesday after ballots
had been tallied. The CWA represents about 20,000 Qwest
Kogler said he expected union employees to be at their jobs
today, while company management and union leadership discuss
possible plans to restart bargaining.
"What I've heard at this point is anecdotal but a lot of basic
dignity and respect issues, and I think (how the retirees were
treated) may be a big piece," Kogler said.
Post-1990 retirees along with union employees would have faced
health care premiums for the first time. Pre-1991 retirees
are protected from increased health care costs by a legal
Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs stressed the
telco "remains completely operational."
"I think it's fair to say that we're disappointed," Toevs said.
"It's puzzling the members would reject the stability of good
wages and benefits over the uncertainty of a prolonged contract
dispute -- especially given the economy."
The CWA already has authorized a strike as a last resort.
Qwest said it has reactivated its strike-contingency plan.
Talks between the parties were contentious over health care and
wages, but the two sides were able to reach a tentative
agreement in mid-August, avertinga possible strike before the
Democratic National Convention.
The CWA has long resisted health care premium-sharing, but the
issue was a top priority for Qwest, which, like other companies,
has experienced rising health care costs.
Mimi Hull, president of the Association of U S West Retirees,
expressed surprise the contract was rejected.