Verizon management prepares for strike

Verizon Communications has trained management employees on how to handle jobs such as the provisioning of circuits in case of a...

Verizon Communications has trained management employees on how to handle jobs such as the provisioning of circuits in case of a union strike this weekend.

The company has also asked management retirees to come back to work if there is a strike. John Bonomo, a Verizon spokesman, said that a federal mediator had been called in to help with talks earlier this week and that Verizon hoped to "get a contract without a strike".

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents 60,000 Verizon employees, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents another 20,000 employees, have authorised a strike as early as 2 August if they cannot reach a new contract with the company.

The CWA said its bargaining goals include job security and transfer rights to new subsidiaries such as Verizon's high-speed internet unit - where union members are excluded. The union also wants better benefits, improved job conditions and a wage increase.

"Our goal is always to reach a peaceful settlement and to have a new agreement in hand by the contract expiration," said CWA president Morton Bahr.

With the possibility of a strike looming, large Verizon customers, such as the Rockefeller Group Telecommunications Services, have already preprovisioned data circuits.

Meanwhile, TowerStream, a competing communications provider, this week started offering a fixed business-grade wireless broadband service in New York, as an alternative in case of a Verizon strike. TowerStream, which also serves markets in Verizon's Boston and Rhode Island territory, can turn on circuits quickly, according to chief operating officer Jeff Thompson. He promised next-day turnaround should it be needed.

Gartner analyst Phil Redman said he doubted that many companies in Verizon's service area - which covers 13 US states across most of the east coast - would see any immediate impact from a strike, since most already have backup and alternative communications links.

Bob Brewin writes for Computerworld

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