US telecoms strike begins to bite


US telecoms strike begins to bite

Keith Hassell

The telecoms sector is anxiously awaiting the outcome of a strike at Verizon Communications, the largest telecommunications company in the US.

Workers in two unions walked out during the early hours of Sunday 6 August, demanding improved job security through enforcing limits on subcontracting, measures to deal with stress for call centre workers and pay and pension improvements.

But 45% of the wireless division of Verizon is owned by Vodafone Airtouch and the key to the dispute is the unions' demand to be allowed to organise the 32,000 workers there.

In a bid to beat the strike, Verizon's local managers were ordered to work seven-day, 84-hour weeks.

However, on Monday the firm admitted to a backlog of 90,000 repair calls a day, compared to 32,000 at the same time last year.

Negotiations last weekend produced a new offer from Verizon, but it was dismissed as "old wine in new bottles," by Robert Master, a spokesman for the Communications Workers of America, which represents the majority of the striking workers.

Verizon Communications was formed when Bell Atlantic and GTE merged in June. It provides services to 25 million residential and commercial users.

Other US telecoms firms will be looking at the outcome of the Verizon dispute with concern, as they also face union negotiations.

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