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Verizon, Unions in Federal Mediation One Year After Strike

Federal mediation process extended through this week, 'significant key issues' remain unresolved.

The continuing federal mediation process for Verizon Co. and unions representing thousands of employees in the Northeast, including New Jersey, has been extended until Friday with "many major items," still outstanding in a year-long contract dispute, said a local labor leader. 

Progress in the labor talks that began on July 25 in Washington has been "slow," said William Huber, president and business manager of IBEW Local 827.

The local represents about 5,600 wireline workers in New Jersey, Huber has said. The Communications Workers of America union represents thousands more in the state, union officials said.

Some of those workers demonstrated across the street from the Verizon headquarters in Basking Ridge multiple times since last summer. But Huber said on Monday that no demonstrators have been back to the facility in recent weeks, while federal negotiations were underway.

The two unions reportedly represent about 45,000 members in multiple states—the workers who last year as of Aug. 6 went on strike at the expiration of a three-year contract in place at that time. Health benefits, salary and working conditions were among the major sticking points during negotiations and—although the employees returned to their jobs after 17 days walking a picket line—a new contract was never forged.

George H. Cohen, director of Federal Mediation and Conciliation service, last Friday said in a release regarding the negotiations:

"For the past 10 days, the parties have been engaged in continuous negotiations under the auspices of myself and Director of Mediation Services John Pinto. The negotiations have been constructive and progress has been made, but significant key issues remain to be resolved." 

Negotiations were to resume on Monday, Cohen said in the statement.

Lee Gierczynski, a spokesman for Verizon on Monday confirmed that the federal negotiations have been extended.

But he declined to discuss the issue further on Monday. He said that the agreement for mediation to is that neither side discuss progress in contract talks with the media.

Both sides are under "lock and key" as far as discussing mediation, Huber agreed last week.

The , with the contract still unresolved and some layoffs pending. In April, right before the federal tax deadline, a reported few hundred union workers had demonstrated nearby Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam's home in Mendham.

In presentations with legislators, Huber said he has discussed the ability of traditional wireline phone service to operate under conditions when other phone service might be unavailable.

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