The Association of U S West Retirees



Some Qwest vacations could be put on hold
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Qwest Communications said Tuesday that it is asking managers to avoid scheduling vacations next August and September because of upcoming union negotiations.  "This is standard operating procedure when a company enters a bargaining cycle," Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs said by e-mail.

"With regard to the (Democratic and Republican National) conventions, the timing is entirely coincidental."

Qwest's contract with the 23,986-member Communications Workers of America expires Aug. 16.

Soon after, Aug. 25-28, the DNC comes to town.

The Republican National Convention is set for Sept. 1-4 in Minneapolis, also part of Qwest's local phone territory.

As a key telecommunications provider and convention donor, pressure will be on Qwest to perform well and not be distracted by potential labor strife.

In 2005, Qwest union employees worked without a contract for a few days but came to an agreement without a strike.

Toevs said the request to managers, or nonunion employees, is a precaution.

"While we fully expect to negotiate new agreements with the unions, we need to ensure uninterrupted customer service in the unlikely event of a work stoppage," he said.

"We sent the e-mail out to give people plenty of planning time."

Union officials in Denver said they weren't aware of the Qwest e-mail to managers.  But they concurred it's routine.

Bargaining usually starts around June.

Reed Roberts, a CWA District 7 official and Qwest contract bargaining agent, said he believes it is too early to know how new Qwest CEO Ed Mueller will approach union negotiations.

He said union officials are supposed to meet Mueller for the first time in a few weeks.

Roberts said there likely are several thorny issues, including rising health care costs and retiree benefits.

"Financially, (Qwest) is stable, but money only goes so far," he said. or 303-954-5155,2777,DRMN_23910_5701590,00.html