Verizon has deal to end strike in New York and New England

About 52,000 Verizon Communications workers in New York and New England are expected back to work today and tomorrow, ending a two-week strike.

From New Jersey to Virginia, however, Verizon customers can continue to expect service delays as the strike there continues.

Verizon employees represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions in the northern states announced a tentative agreement on a three-year contract late yesterday that should bring 95% of those workers back by the end of the day tomorrow, said Lawrence T. Babbio Jr., vice chairman and president of New York-based Verizon.

There are approximately 80,000 "trouble reports" in the region, less than half of which are out-of-service reports, Babbio said; most of the others involve customers experiencing noise on their lines or similar problems.

In addition, 200,000 Verizon customers who have requested service are waiting to get hooked up. Those customers will be connected on a "first come, first served" basis, Babbio said, starting with those who had scheduled phone hookups on the first day of the strike.

"This will probably take us about three to four weeks to catch up," Babbio said.

The agreement, which still must be ratified by union members, provides measures to reduce workplace stress, especially in the customer service call centers, and to reduce mandatory overtime and the transfer or workers from region to region.

Under the proposed contract, wireless workers have 90 days to organize from the time the union announces a desire to do so. If that particular unit doesn't vote to become part of the union, then organizers must stop trying to organize that shop for a year.

CWA spokesman Steve Early did not immediately return calls this morning.

Those workplace issues, in addition to creating rules for union organization, have been the sticking point in these negotiations, Babbio said.

"The economics of this package were settled a long time ago," he noted. The package provides for a 12% pay raise over three years -- 4% the first year, 3% the second and 5% the third. Union members will also each receive options for 100 shares of stock in the company by the end of the year, Babbio said, and pension benefits will rise 14.7% over the next three years.

Babbio said he didn't know the total cost of the strike to Verizon or how much the company may have to reimburse its customers for lost or delayed service.

"We'll handle that one at a time," he said.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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