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Verizon workers avoid strike, but lack a deal

August 04, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

The start of the work day for thousands of unionized Verizon workers, including hundreds locally, is expected to be business as usual today.

They've been told to get to work on time despite the expiration of their contract at midnight Sunday, a union spokesman said.

Representatives from Verizon Communications and the Communications Workers of America resumed contract negotiations at 10 a.m. Sunday in Washington D.C., according to spokespeople from each side. Verizon spokeswoman Sandy Arnette said the sides were still negotiating at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

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Many workers locally and in the Northeast had been awaiting word to go on strike after their three-year contract with Verizon expired over the weekend. Local 2105 President Brian Bibbee said Sunday he believes a strike, like the 18-day stoppage in July and August 2000, was and continues to be a possibility.

"I had no idea what the leadership was going to do," Bibbee said. "About 1:25 a.m., the decision was made to work without a contract."

Arnette said the company is pleased both sides are making headway in the negotiations and that a strike has been, thus far, averted.

"We're hoping it (a contract agreement) happens soon," Arnette said. "It's a good sign that both sides are talking. There's hope as long as they're still talking."

Bibbee and Arnette both said key issues holding up the contract include job security and the cost of health care coverage to employees.

Local 2105 represents approximately 214 Verizon employees in Washington County, and Berkeley and Morgan counties in West Virginia, according to Bibbee. Union members include clerical workers, auto mechanics, cable splicers, installers, engineers and central office technicians, he said.

About 78,000 from Maine to Virginia, including members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, will be affected by the contract, according to Arnette.

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