Verizon, Unions in Federal Mediation Talks
Union leader said members of union were in Basking Ridge in recent weeks.
With the one-year deadline of the expiration of two unions' contracts with Verizon looming on Aug. 6, negotiators for both sides are before a federal mediator in Washington.
A union leader representing thousands of New Jersey wireline workers said he is hoping for an indication of where talks are heading by the end of this week.
William Huber, president and business manager of IBEW Local 827 in New Jersey said union members had been back demonstrating at the Verizon's Basking Ridge headquarters a few weeks ago.
Huber said that Verizon Communications and union leaders from throughout the Northeast have been in federal mediation in Washington since last Wednesday. He said he was in negotiations even on Sunday night at about 9 p.m.
Both sides are under "lock and key" as far as discussing mediation with the media, he said. But he suggested there may be some more news by the end of the week.
"It's either going to work, or it ain't going to work," Huber said Sunday night regarding the mediation.
John Bonomo, director of media relations for Verizon in New York, said the company would decline to comment on the mediation.
The unions had demonstrated at a spot across from Verizon's Basking Ridge headquarters several times in summer 2011, initially showing up a few days before a strike that began at the expiration of the previous three-year contract last August. Demonstrators returned to the Verizon headquarters at some points during the duration of the 17-day strike, after which union workers returned to the job working under the terms of the previous contract.
However, the union demonstrators were back in Basking Ridge in March, with the contract still unresolved and some layoffs pending. In April, right before the federal tax deadline, a few hundred union workers reportedly demonstrated nearby Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam's home in Mendham.
Local 827 of the International Brotherhood of IBEW represents about 5,600 wireline workers in New Jersey, and the Communications Workers of America represents thousands more, Huber said in the past.
Overall the IBEW and CWA unions represented in Washington encompass about 45,000 workers in the Northeast, according to previous information from the union.
During last summer's strike, Verizon non-union and supervisory personnel from Basking Ridge were among those trained to fill in on the job while the wireline workers and Verizon service centers employees were on strike. Before, during and after the strike, Verizon laid out is bargaining position online.
Huber on Sunday said that both sides had agreed not to discuss publicly what's going on with the mediation underway with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
According to a July 24 statement printed online on the IBEW local 827 website, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen said ongoing labor negotiations began last Wednesday morning, July 25, between the Verizon Communications Inc., the CWA and IBEW at the FMCS's Washington office. Bonomo also forwarded a copy of the statement from Verizon.
“Because of the sensitivity of these negotiations, in keeping with our past custom and practice, and the agreement between the parties, the FMCS and the parties will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule and/or the status of talks among the parties until further notice," Cohen's statement said.
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, created in 1947, is an independent U.S. government agency with the mission of preserving and promoting labor-management peace and cooperation, according to Cohen's statement. Headquartered in Washington, with 10 district offices and 67 field offices, the agency provides mediation and conflict resolution services to industry, government agencies and communities, according to statement issued by the FMCS.
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