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Verizon Still Negotiating With Two Unions

July 30, 2008

By Louis Llovio, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

Jul. 30–Verizon Communications Inc. and two unions are in contract talks.

The current five-year pact between the phone company, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers expires at midnight Saturday.

Union workers have authorized a strike if a deal is not reached by the deadline, but a walkout is not certain. The unions are working together in the bargaining.

The contract affects 65,000 employees in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

The CWA represents about 6,300 workers in Virginia, including about 1,900 in the Richmond area. The number of IBEW members was not available for the state and region.

The unions said the major sticking points are the outsourcing of jobs to nonunion subcontractors and the rising cost of health care.

Verizon spokesman Harry J. Mitchell wrote in an e-mail that he could not characterize the progress of the talks, but that the company is “hopeful we’ll get a deal by the contract’s expiration.”

Candice Johnson , a spokeswoman for the CWA, also expressed hope.

She said that if a deal is not reached by Saturday, it does not mean that the unions will automatically go on strike.

Negotiators first will assess the situation and see how close they are to an agreement, she said. If the unions decide that a strike is necessary, presidents of the two unions would then set a date for a walkout.

“It’s a flexible situation,” Johnson said.

About 85,000 Verizon employees went on strike for 18 days in 2000. Contact Louis Llovio at (804) 649-6348 or LLLovio@timesdispatch.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

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