Verizon strikers return to work, but bad blood still boils

Verizon Communications (NYSE, NASDAQ:VZ) and the two unions representing 45,000 wireline employees reached an agreement that will end a strike that began August 7. However, a new contract is not in place, and Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are calling for Verizon to retract a statement from the service provider’s executive vice president of human resources that implies the unions hadn’t been bargaining in good faith.

Verizon Communications (NYSE, NASDAQ:VZ) and the two unions representing 45,000 wireline employees reached an agreement that will end a strike that began August 7. However, a new contract is not in place, and Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are calling for Verizon to retract a statement from the service provider’s executive vice president of human resources that implies the unions hadn’t been bargaining in good faith.

Verizon announced that the returning employees would work under the terms of the previous contract, which expired August 6. In a statement, Verizon said, “Verizon and the unions have made headway in negotiating a number of local and regional issues, and the parties have agreed on a process for moving forward to negotiate the major issues regarding benefits, cost structure, work flexibility and job security.”

However, Verizon’s executive vice president of human resources, Marc Reed, couldn’t resist tweaking the tiger’s tail. "We are grateful to our management team for their leadership during the past 14 days in so ably meeting the needs of our customers,” he was quoted as saying in the statement Verizon released to announce the deal with the unions. “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.”

That last statement did not please the unions. “We are disappointed to see this quote from Marc Reed, Verizon’s executive vice president for human resources, that the company hoped ‘to convince the unions to begin bargaining with us in good faith.’ It is both inaccurate and insulting,” read a statement the CWA released in response. “We agreed with management not to claim victory in changing the process, reinstituting the contract or shaping our goals. We will live by that commitment.

“But Reed's comment if not retracted means that we will be prepared to fight and fight hard whenever necessary if Verizon believes it can resume negotiations on that basis,” the statement continued.

The strike, though short-lived, was contentious. The unions asserted that management employees struck picketing workers with automobiles, while Verizon asserted that picketers prevented supervisors from entering company facilities. Verizon also reported several attempts to sabotage its network, primarily via fiber cuts (see "Verizon: Number of strike sabotage acts exceeds 90").

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