Three-Year Pact Will Create Jobs; Ratification Awaits
By Amol Sharma
The Wall Street Journal
Monday, August 11, 2008
Inc. reached a deal with two labor unions covering 65,000
workers, averting a potential strike that could have affected
the telecom giant's installation and repair operations in
Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states.
Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for Communications Workers of
America, which represents 50,000 of the affected Verizon
workers, said the two sides reached a three-year agreement "in
principle" on Sunday after several weeks of negotiations.
CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the
other union covered by the agreement, will put the deal to their
membership for ratification in coming weeks.
One of the final issues for the two sides to resolve was the
unions' desire to organize more workers at Verizon, especially
those in the Verizon Business unit. Under the tentative deal,
Verizon will transfer more than 600 positions from that division
to the Verizon land-line group. The company will also make 900
temporary workers in the landline unit regular full-time
With those and other changes, CWA said the settlement would
create 2,500 new union jobs in total. "This is a breakthrough
agreement in many ways," CWA President Larry Cohen said.
Health-care costs were also a major issue. Verizon and the
unions agreed to shift the way health costs are paid for future
retirees who started working at the company after Aug. 2.
Verizon agreed to continue paying 100% of premiums for active
and already retired employees. Instead of a guarantee that the
company will pay a certain percentage of retiree costs, the
company will pay past workers a fixed dollar amount based on
their years of service. Verizon says the provision, which
affects employees hired after Aug. 2, will "mitigate increasing
future retiree medical costs."
The unions had threatened to strike Monday at 12:01 a.m. They
had agreed to extend talks last weekend after the previous
five-year contract covering their workers had technically
Verizon said in a statement that shifting to a shorter
three-year contract would allow it "to closely align future
agreements to marketplace changes in the fast-paced
The unions involved in these contract discussions represent
Verizon land-line employees who account for about 25% of the
company's revenue. Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon
PLC, has very few unionized workers.
to Amol Sharma at