Verizon Communications announced Saturday afternoon that its 45,000 wireline employees in nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states who are represented by the CWA and IBEW unions will return to work beginning Monday night, Aug. 22, even without a new contract.
The return to work of 5,400 New Jersey union wireline workers would end a two-week old strike that
According to a press release on a Verizon website, Verizon and the unions—including Local 827 of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in New Jersey—have made headway in negotiating a number of local and regional issues. The parties have agreed on a process for moving forward to negotiate the major issues regarding benefits, cost structure, work flexibility and job security, the release said.
William Huber, president and business manager for the IBEW Local 827, including workers who had periodically demonstrated in front of the Verizon facility in Basking Ridge, was not yet available for comment on Saturday.
In its Saturday press release, Verizon said the wireline employees now on strike would be working under the terms of the contracts that expired on Saturday, Aug. 6. The contracts will be extended with no specific Verizon News Release, deadline for achieving new collective bargaining agreements so that the parties can take the time required to resolve the critical issues, the Verizon release said.
Huber and other union members had identified some of those major issues as health benefits—including the Basking Ridge Patch was a complete scrapping of a longstanding health plan—working conditions, wages and other terms of employment.
Marc Reed, Verizon’s executive vice president of human resources, said in Saturday's release, “We agreed to end the strike because we believe that is in the best interest of our customers and our employees. We remain committed to our objectives, and we look forward to negotiating the important issues that are integral to the future health of Verizon’s wireline business.”
Reed added in the release that he is grateful to Verizon's managment team—which a Verizon spokesman said previously included non-union employees from Basking Ridge—for taking time from their regular jobs in the past 14 days or so to be reassigned to jobs normally filled by union workers.
"The team’s competence, dedication and hard work enabled us to withstand the strike without significant disruption to customer service, and to convince the unions to begin bargaining with us in good faith," Reed said in the release. "The fortitude and efforts of our managers have proven to be our strongest point of leverage in bargaining. We are pleased that during this stressful economic period our union-represented employees will be back at work earning good wages and benefits while serving our customers.”
With its union-represented employees back at work, Verizon plans to quickly address any backlog in repairs and unfulfilled requests for service, the release concluded.
In the past few weeks, Huber had said that unions did not believe that temporarily trained non-union employees could adequately fulfill the job responsibilities of union workers, especially on a long term basis.
Just the day before, on Friday, a judge had amended an had received in state Superior Court in Sussex County about a week earlier, Rich Young, spokesman for Verizon, said on Saturday.
The amended injunction, following differing interpretations of the earlier injunction by Verizon and the unions, clarifies the number and placement of members allowed to congregate, although not picket, near picketers that were limited to six in number in the first injunction, Young said. These other members who are allowed to picket can vary from four to 35 people, within 25 to 40 feet, depending on the type of location, he said.
The court amendment specifies that the provisions on home picketing also apply to temporary residences, hotels and restaurants used by employees and contractors, Young said.
"It adds prohibitions against using racial, sexist, sexual or obscene language or gestures," Young said in an email. Picketing members also were told they are prohibited from using air horns at all or using bullhorns in an abusive or unreasonably loud manner.
The amendment specifies that the union may not photograph or videotape managers for improper purposes, he said, and the union is required to post the injunction on its website for the remainder of the strike
Earlier, Huber had said that union members were videotaping managers trained to fill in the strikers' job positions on a temporary basis as they were conducting those job responsibilities in an unsafe manner.
Both sides said last week that negotiations were continuing all through that time. However, many dozens of issues, including health benefits, salary and working conditions, reportedly remained on the table as of last week.
Huber said last week that Verizon had been in violation of the original court injunction by constantly calling in police to enforce the strictures of an order that was supposed to involve attorneys and union representatives, not police.
Police Lt. Ted Reese said last week that local police had a primary involvement of monitoring the situation when picketerers showed up near the main Verizon facility off North Maple Ave.
"We are living within the restrictions of the injunction," Huber said last week.