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Verizon workers go on strike

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Verizon workers go on strike
New York (BDCi) –Thousands of workers of Verizon Communications Inc. went on strike as negotiations for a new labor contract fell through on Sunday.

Among the 45,000 striking employees are technicians and customer support employees in the wireline unit, which offer traditional phone services to homes and businesses in the Northeast as well as high-speed internet and FIOS television service.

Striking workers will join a mass picket line and rallies at over 100 Verizon work locations across New York and New Jersey to keep the company from backing off from its demands, said one of the participating unions, the Communication Workers of America (CWA).

Verizon, one of the two largest U.S. telephone network operators, is going through its first major strike since the year 2000 when 80,000 walked out for approximately 3 weeks.

Verizon has been in negotiations with two unions since June – the CWA with 35,000 employees affected and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers with around 10,000 employees participating – but has failed to reach a conclusion across several work issues.

Company and union have disagreement on issues involving healthcare contributions, pension plans and work rules, according to Verizon and the CWA.

Verizon Communications’ wireline business is searching for ways to stabilize their costs since several customers in the past decade have disconnected their home phones in favor of cell phone and internet services.

“As the U.S. automobile industry found out a few years ago, failure to make needed adjustments — when the need for change is obvious — can be catastrophic,” new Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam wrote in a letter to employees.

“A strike is a hardship and should not be undertaken lightly,” Jim Spellane, an IBEW spokesmen said in an-email.

“I think that the fact that we are on strike instead of finalizing an agreement is a testimony to Verizon’s intransigence throughout the process, “Spellane said

A representative for the CWA said negotiations agreements were expected to take place on Sunday while workers were told to begin picketing as early as 6 a.m. EDT outside of their work locations.

A 45 year-old Verizon employee, Michael Paleski said, “I have two Children. I have a wife, a house and two cars. And things are not cheap these days; they’re getting more expensive for us. And that’s why we need to have the right contract structure.”

Verizon has 93,000 employees in its wireline business, of which 53,000 are unionized including its Verizon Wireless venture with Vodafone Group PLC; the company’s total work force is 196,000 workers.

By: shayla Selva Edited by: Don Weinstein Source: Reuters Photo: courtesy of: The street.com August 8, 2011

2:30 p.m. PDT

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