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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: Seriou$**
By cjohnson2136 on 8/8/2011 1:55:57 PM , Rating: 2
And its not like its a field tech with 5-10 years experience. It is someone with a 2 year degree OR 2 years experience. I am finishing my 4 year degree this December and the job at now is just shy of 50k. I would love to be making 10k more.

RE: Seriou$**
By Sazabi19 on 8/8/2011 3:06:50 PM , Rating: 2
I've been a computer tech for 3 years now (no degree just experience) and I wish I made your money... The ONLY good part is that I don't have a family to take care of.

RE: Seriou$**
By cjohnson2136 on 8/8/2011 3:42:00 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah I am glad it's just me and my wife.

RE: Seriou$**
By cjohnson2136 on 8/8/2011 3:43:41 PM , Rating: 2
And look you have the experience go cross the picket line and take a job from them lol

RE: Seriou$**
By dean.smits on 8/8/2011 5:05:10 PM , Rating: 1
Oh, but it is. I just talked to one of these linemen. He has been doing this for over 10 years, makes ~$57,000 a year, which ain't bad. I don't know how much he pays for insurance, but you know it ain't free. They want to reduce his salary to what it was 5 years ago. He has wife and kids, can't do that!

And if you think his job is easy, its not. He's climbing those tall poles and working among strong electrical current. Its a highly dangerous job that takes a lot of training and a dedicated worker.

Meanwhile, the CEO earns 2.1 million in 2009, 3 million performance bonus, $11 million in stock & options, and $880,000 in compensations (like money to cover taxes associated with travel and life insurance, money to use the company jet, etc.)

And the unions didn't just walk away from the table. They were practically pushed away. This is coming from the horses mouth.

RE: Seriou$**
By VahnTitrio on 8/9/2011 10:26:25 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed, I don't make that much with a 4 year degree. And currently. Unlimited sick days is just sickening. I know health varies from person to person but I've only taken 5 sick days total since June of 2005.

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