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