The Association of U S West Retirees



Qwest, union schedule resumption of contract talks
Rocky Mountain News
Friday, October 3, 2008

Qwest Communications and its largest union will resume bargaining Thursday, setting a midnight deadline Friday for reaching a new tentative agreement.

Members of the Communications Workers of America this week soundly rejected a proposed three-year contract ironed out just a week before the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August.  The CWA represents about 20,000 Qwest employees.

Union officials have said the members, who would have faced health-care premiums for the first time, were upset at the way they were treated by the Denver telco.  The additional health care costs would have offset a good portion of a proposed 9.73 percent wage increase over three years.

Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs and CWA District 7 spokesman Al Kogler both confirmed the new bargaining schedule today but declined to comment about possible new proposals.

Kogler said the union agreed with Qwest “to let the negoiations go the best they can without anything in the media about specific items.”

Donna Jaegers, a telecommunications analyst for D.A. Davidson & Co. in Denver, speculated that union workers felt like they have given up enough in the past few years to help Qwest reach financial stability.

“Maybe Qwest needs to sweeten (the original deal) and give them a little more upfront,” Jaegers said.

But she added Qwest again has an economic card to play given the country’s current financial turmoil.  Qwest separately laid off an undisclosed number of nonunion employees in its network and mass markets groups this week.

“I don’t think anyone in the union really wants to go on strike,” Jaegers said.  She also noted the union doesn’t have as strong of a bargaining position now that the political conventions are over.

Qwest was the official telecommunications provider for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

The CWA has authorized a strike as a last resort, and Qwest has reactivated its strike-contingency plan.