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Verizon, 2 unions agree to contracts

From Times Wire Services

Telecommunications giant Verizon Communications Inc. and two unions said Sunday that they had new contracts, avoiding a strike today by 65,000 workers.

The nation’s second-largest local phone company said the contracts included wage increases totaling 10.5% over three years. Previously, contracts had run for five years.

Under the agreements, the company will create about 2,500 jobs and continue to provide fully paid healthcare premiums for current employees, according to a statement by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The two unions had threatened to strike the New York company at 12:01 a.m. today if no agreements were reached. The unions say they’re pleased with the tentative three-year contracts, which are subject to ratification by their members.

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Workers will vote on the contracts in the next several weeks, CWA spokeswoman Candice Johnson said.

Negotiations started last year. As talks went on, workers held rallies and protests in New York and Boston by the thousands, the CWA said.

Verizon had trained its managers to take on the union workers’ tasks in the event of a strike.

“Talks over the past couple of weeks had been productive, and the result is an agreement that will keep us serving customers,” Verizon spokesman Bob Varettoni said.

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The CWA called the new contracts a “breakthrough agreement” that “takes a big step forward on healthcare,” one of the biggest issues in negotiation.

In Denver, CWA members voted to authorize a strike next week at Qwest Communications International Inc., the smallest of the nation’s three major local phone companies, if talks fail to produce a new contract.

The union said 93% of voting members had authorized a strike if needed.

A contract covering about 20,000 union workers at Qwest expires 12:01 a.m. Sunday, a little more than a week before the Democratic National Convention in Denver. The Republican National Convention begins Sept. 1 in St. Paul, Minn.

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The Denver carrier is providing communication services at both conventions and has committed $6 million worth of cash and in-kind services to each one.


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