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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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By kwilliford on 8/8/2011 5:37:49 PM , Rating: 2
I can not believe what I am reading in these comments. Is the mentality of Americans so distorted now that we want the jobs that pay more and have good benefits to disappear completely. The dollar is worth less everyday, yet you think we should settle for low pay, worthless benefits, and no pension plan jobs. We should be fighting for more jobs like these.

RE: HealthCare
By JediJeb on 8/9/2011 6:47:37 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think we want these jobs to disappear, but when the unions continually return to the companies and demand more and more money and benefits it just causes that companies products to become more expensive. The biggest expense of any company is payroll. If autoworkers get more money then the cost of a car will increase. For prosperity we want more people to be able to afford a car, so we try to raise the salary of everyone else. Ok that helps them afford a car, but it increases the cost of everything else that they produce, which makes what an autoworker earns worth less so they want another raise. Many call this a growing economy, but it is a continuous spiral that is always feeding upon itself and never ends. In the end an autoworker or telecommunications worker can be making a million dollars a year salary, but by then a loaf of bread will cost $100 so what have they really gained in the end?

Also for those who have no job, what these people are earning seems like a fortune. You say we should be fighting for more jobs like this, but where will the money come from to support those jobs?

For the record though I have been working as a chemist for 20 years and have a BS degree and two years graduate studies and I don't make what the Verizon workers are making, yet I do live comfortably. The US is no longer a quiet humble society, it has become to some extent a society of excesses and instant gratification that must be fueled by ever increasing salaries and debts and eventually (probably sooner than we wish) it will crash and burn if we don't slow down a little bit and act responsibly.

RE: HealthCare
By undummy on 8/9/2011 7:42:03 PM , Rating: 2

Don't worry. If Verizon breaks the Union, YOUR FIOS, DSL, wireless, or phone BIL will NOT GET CHEAPER.

They are a very efficient company. They already have surplus money and profit, because of that efficiency and volume from their customer base.

The union is not demanding more and more. They just want what is already there, and to have the retired/fired/died/quitters REPLACED in a timely manner so that the employees don't have to be overworked. You are seriously misinformed.

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