A strike by telephone unions against Verizon
Communications crept into its second work week Monday, with the two
sides at odds over a revised contract proposal now on the table.
The distance between the parties dashed hopes that 87,000
Verizon workers on strike since Aug. 6 would soon leave the picket
lines and return to work.
Company officials said the new offer, delivered to unions over
the weekend, sets the right balance between providing strong
customer service and managing the demands on workers.
"We believe we have fairly addressed the issues,'' Verizon
spokesman Eric Rabe said Monday.
In contrast, the unions continued to argue that the proposal
fails to address key stumbling blocks.
"The company has not proposed anything that would move
negotiations along in the areas of overtime and job stress,'' said
Candice Johnson, spokeswoman for the Communications Workers of
America, one of the two bargaining unions.
Currently, the company can require employees to work 10 extra
hours a week during seven months of the year, and 15 extra hours a
week during five months of the year.
The union says that provision was intended to give the company
flexibility during emergencies or periods of heavy traffic, not to
allow Verizon to demand that employees work to these limits each
"Two hours every day is just a little bit too much for a
working mother,'' said Verizon worker Lisa Charles of Newark, N.J.,
who has two children. "You're exhausted.''
Charles, who processes orders from other local phone companies
seeking to lease Verizon's lines, said she typically works 10 hours
of mandatory overtime weekly and is sometimes asked to come in on
The company says overtime is part of its multipronged strategy
to meet customer demand in a tight labor market while minimizing
employee stress. Other components of this approach include limiting
the monthly transfers of customer service representatives,
particularly in call centers with heavy volumes, and being able to
distribute work such as incoming calls to centers throughout the
company's region, Verizon officials say.
Verizon, the nation's largest local telephone company, is the
product of a summer merger between Bell Atlantic and GTE.
But these interconnected management techniques have prompted
other concerns by the unions. CWA leaders say a company proposal
that would limit to 1.5 percent the number of workers that can
transfer each month would trap workers in high-pressure jobs. The
unions also fear that the company will reassign work to areas in
their merged territory where labor is cheaper.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is striking
along with CWA.
The strike affects Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New
Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island,
Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.