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Verizon Tells Striking Workers It Plans to Suspend Benefits

Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Verizon Communications Inc., the telephone company where about 45,000 workers are out on strike, told the employees it will suspend certain benefits at the end of the month if they haven’t returned to their jobs.

Workers at two unions that have called strikes will lose basic health-insurance, dental, vision and prescription-drug benefits, said Richard Young, a spokesman for the company. Verizon stopped funding the workers’ pensions when their former contract expired Aug. 6, he said.

“If they’re not employed and not working for the company, we’re not going to fund their pensions,” Young said in a telephone interview.

The employees, represented by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, went out on strike after they failed to reach an agreement on a new contract with Verizon, the second-largest U.S. telecommunications company. Verizon is asking the workers to pay more for health-insurance benefits, while the unions have said the company is profitable and executive compensation is healthy.

The striking workers are primarily from Verizon’s traditional landline telephone business, with the company’s wireless business largely unaffected. The walk-out is the largest since about 73,000 General Motors Co. workers went on strike for two days in 2007, said Jeffrey Keefe, professor of labor and employment relations at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Verizon, based in New York, fell 17 cents to $34.88 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange trading. The stock has dropped 2.5 percent so far this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Devin Banerjee in New York at dbanerjee2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net

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