• Landline workers want assurances from Verizon on job security
  • Strike now at day 20; both sides open to continuing talks

Verizon Communications Inc. and two labor unions representing about 39,000 striking landline workers rejected one another’s latest proposals toward a new contract Monday, though they remain open to a new round of talks.

The two sides are struggling to narrow differences over moving jobs overseas and closing call centers, George Kohl, a representative for the Communications Workers of America, said on a conference call Tuesday. Richard Young, a Verizon spokesman, said the carrier rebuffed the union’s counteroffer on the issues without providing details.

“Benefits don’t matter if you don’t have a job,” Louise Novotny, a CWA representative, said on the conference call.

Members of the CWA and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers walked off the job 20 days ago, and have picketed hundreds of Verizon offices, stores, equipment facilities and jobs sites in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. The FiOS technicians, cable splicers and customer-service representatives have been working without a contract since Aug. 1.

Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless carrier, wants union workers to contribute more to health benefits and be flexible on temporary job relocations. Last week the company offered a wage increase of 7.5 percent over three years, which the union rejected.

The unions, for their part, want to limit transfers of workers to other regions, protect jobs from being moved abroad and preserve pension increases. They’ve also questioned Verizon’s use of cash to pay for stock buybacks and potentially purchase Yahoo! Inc. “when they could be building out the Northeast,” Kohl said.

During the strike, Verizon has assigned managers, temps and contract employees to call centers and jobs out in the field. Union members are tapping a $400 million “safety net” fund to help pay health care costs, said Kohl.

The previous Verizon strike, in 2011, lasted two weeks as workers returned to their jobs without a new contract as negotiations continued.

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