- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2003

Verizon’s unionized workers are likely to vote in favor the tentative contract reached earlier this week, union leaders said yesterday.

“I know that our bargaining committees have unanimously called for approval of the contract,” said Candice Johnson, CWA spokeswoman.

The five-year agreement would give the more than 78,000 workers in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast some of the job security guarantees and other benefits they demanded under threat of a strike.

“From what I understand, it’s probably going to be accepted,” said Vince Cody, executive vice president of Local 2222 of the Communication Workers of America. “I think people have questions, but they’re generally favorable.”

Local 2222 represents about 1,600 Verizon workers in the Washington area.

A ratification vote by the unionized Verizon employees is likely within the next month, although it has not yet been scheduled, union leaders said.

“Once they see the fine print, they’ll get an opportunity to vote,” Mr. Cody said.

Presidents of Mid-Atlantic locals met with union negotiators yesterday at CWA headquarters in Washington to discuss the agreement.

The tentative agreement the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers reached with Verizon late Thursday would preserve existing contract provisions that protect workers against layoffs and prohibit transfers out of communities without employee consent. Workers hired after the contract takes effect will not have those protections.

The agreement also provides for annual, structured talks on jobs and wages to “mutually assess changes in the economy and the competitive environment and to balance any basic wage increase above 2 percent against the needs of the company to reduce the size of the work force,” Verizon said in a statement.

But the contract will remain in place if both sides do not agree on changes.

Workers will receive immediate cash bonuses of 3 percent, or an average of $1,600, upon approval of the contracts.

Base wages will then increase 2 percent annually, for a total of 8 percent during the contract. Cost-of-living increases are possible in years four and five, depending on inflation.

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