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Unions are challenging Verizon's recent decisions to cut pensions, change work rules and make employees pay more for healthcare

We are living in an increasingly wireless world, where smartphones, tablets, laptops and many other gadgets can be seen around every corner. With so many wireless device options, more and more people are getting rid of their landline phones, and Verizon has certainly recognized these losses. 

Due to this evolution in the way we communicate, Verizon has seen a decline in its wireline business (landlines and FiOS services) over the past decade, and is now looking to keep costs "in check." Some of these changes include cutting pensions, changing work rules and making employees pay more for healthcare.

Two unions -- the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- which represent 45,000 Verizon employees, entered into contract negotiations with Verizon in late June. The unions are challenging Verizon's proposal that employees pay $1,300 to $3,000 for family healthcare coverage, as well as the freezing of pensions for current employees, the elimination of pensions for future employees, and the limitation of five sick days per year when there was no previous limit. In addition, Verizon wants to make it easier to lay off employees without buying them out and give raises based solely on job performance, allowing the company to deny annual raises to employees that don't measure up.

Verizon responded by saying its unionized employees are "well paid," with many field technicians making $100,000 a year including overtime as well as $50,000 in benefits. The unions said field technicians make $60,000 to $77,000 a year without overtime and that benefits do not reach $50,000 a year.

Both sides could not reach an agreement, and at 12:20 a.m. on Sunday, August 7, the 45,000 union workers at Verizon's U.S. Northeast wireline unit went on strike

"Since bargaining began on June 22, Verizon has refused to move from a long list of concession demands," said the unions in a statement. "Even at the 11th hour, as contracts were set to expire, Verizon continued to seek to strip away 50 years of collective bargaining gains for middle class workers and their families."

Verizon released a statement early Sunday morning, saying that it was unsuccessful in reaching an agreement with the unions, and that it activated a contingency plan to make sure landline customers were not affected during this time. 

"It's regrettable for our employees and our customers [that the unions] have decided to walk away from the table instead of continuing to work through the issues," said Mark C. Reed, Verizon's executive vice president of human resources.

Despite Verizon's statement, Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for the workers on strike, said that the talks had continued at 12:30 a.m. 

Verizon is currently filling the positions of these workers with tens of thousands of management retirees and employees, and it feels confident that its wireline services will continue without any problems.

Verizon Communications shares fell 3 percent in premarket trading on Monday after the strike had began.

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RE: HealthCare
By cjohnson2136 on 8/8/2011 11:34:49 AM , Rating: 3
The unions said field technicians make $60,000 to $77,000 a year

This is still decent money that you could raise a family on.

RE: HealthCare
By bah12 on 8/8/2011 12:17:50 PM , Rating: 3
The union numbers are w/o overtime, where Verizon listed it. So both spin the numbers to help their case of course. Also the Union is doubting the $50K benefits number, but almost certainly don't count employer paid Social Security as a benefit.

Of course the truth is in the middle I'm sure, but doesn't sound like the union has much to complain about here. Even at their numbers, these guys have it pretty good. I love how they don't like that they went from having no limit on sick days to 5, and are complaining. Typical entailment union BS.

RE: HealthCare
By bah12 on 8/8/2011 12:18:48 PM , Rating: 2
edit: "entitlement" BS

RE: HealthCare
By bobsmith1492 on 8/8/2011 12:38:23 PM , Rating: 2
That's 20-50% more than I make as an electrical engineer. Maybe I should downgrade to a technician and upgrade my pay...

RE: HealthCare
By cjohnson2136 on 8/8/2011 1:07:26 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking the same thing

RE: HealthCare
By ClownPuncher on 8/8/2011 1:11:27 PM , Rating: 2
You're getting screwed, depending on your placement.

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