Verizon Open to Mediation to Avert Strike of 39,000 Workers

  • Landline workers in northeast U.S. ready to strike April 13
  • Managers, non-union staff take over duties of striking workers

Verizon Communications Inc., preparing for a possible strike of about 39,000 landline workers from Massachusetts to Virginia, said it would be open to federal mediation to reach a new contract.

The New York-based company has trained managers and contractors to step into the striking workers’ roles, which include answering customer inquiries and repairing fiber and copper lines, according to a statement Tuesday. But the company said it has been approached by the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service, and would be willing to participate to settle the labor dispute.

Verizon had been negotiating with the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers since June over terms of a contract to replace one that expired Aug. 1. The nation’s largest wireless carrier wants union workers to contribute more to health benefits and be flexible on temporary job relocations. The union, meanwhile, wants to limit those transfers of workers to other regions, protect jobs from being moved offshore, and preserve pension increases.

With the stalemate dragging on, the unions gave Verizon a deadline of 6 a.m. New York time Wednesday to settle contract discussions or face a strike.

“Let’s make it clear -- we are ready for a strike,” Bob Mudge, president of Verizon’s wireline network operations, said in the statement.

CWA said it didn’t authorize the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service to approach Verizon about extending the strike date.

“The question of federal mediation is a distraction to the real problem: Verizon’s corporate greed,” the union said in a statement. “CWA and IBEW bargaining teams have been ready, able and willing to bargain. Where’s Verizon?”

The last Verizon strike was in 2011, after a previous contract expired and talks failed. The union members returned to work after two weeks. Then, after 15 weeks of negotiations, the sides agreed to a new deal.

Of the workers, about 29,000 are represented by the CWA, 10,000 by the IBEW.

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