NEW YORK– Approximately 39,000 Verizon landline and cable workers are expected to go on strike Wednesday, after progress in contract negotiations, which expired 8 months ago, have stalled.
The workers, which are members of two unions — the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — represent installers, customer service employees, repairmen and other service workers in ten states including Pennsylvania. These workers are critical for Verizon’s wireline business, which provides fixed-line phone services and its FiOS Internet service, according to FOX News.
Outside a Verizon office in Philadelphia, dozens of striking workers gathered. Edward Mooney of the Communications Workers of America said the issue was about keeping jobs from going overseas.
The unions have said that Verizon wants to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier and rely more on contract workers. Verizon has said there are health care issues that need to be addressed for retirees and current workers because medical costs have grown and the company also wants “greater flexibility” to manage its workers.
Verizon also is pushing to eliminate a rule that would prevent employees from working away from home for extended periods of time. In a television ad, the unions said the company was trying to “force employees to accept a contract sending their jobs to other parts of the country and even overseas.”
“The main issues are job security and that they want to move workers miles and miles away,” said Isaac Collazo, a Verizon employee who has worked replacing underground cables in New York City for nearly 19 years.
“We have a clause currently that they can’t just lay anyone off willy nilly and they want to get rid of that,” said Collazo. “I feel if the company had the opportunity, they would just lay people off.”
Verizon said Tuesday that it has worked for over a year to prepare for the possibility of a strike and has trained thousands of non-union workers to fill in for the striking workers. Employees from other departments across the U.S. also will be sent to replace the striking workers, the company said. In August of 2011, about 45,000 Verizon workers went on strike for about two weeks.
“Let’s make it clear, we are ready for a strike,” Bob Mudge, president of Verizon’s wire line network operations said.
Verizon Communications Inc. has a total workforce of more than 177,000 employees. The company said in a statement Tuesday that the company was contacted by federal mediators and is willing to sit down and continue negotiation talks, if the unions agree to hold off on their strike. A spokeswoman for CWA said the union did not authorize the mediators to offer to extend the strike date.