Workers at US telecommunications giant Verizon have forced significant concessions from their bosses, after a strike that lasted more than six weeks. Around 40,000 Verizon staff are expected to return to work on Wednesday 1 June after the company reached a settlement with their unions, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which sees the company retreat from its plans to cut staff pensions and increase outsourcing.
Workers will now vote on the proposed settlement before it comes into effect. The deal, which would last for four years, gives a pay increase of more than 10%, as well as small increases in bonuses and profit sharing. The deal Verizon offered before the strike involved a basic pay increase of only 6.5%. The new settlement also includes stipulations about distribution of work between the cable and wireless sides of Verizon’s business, the former of which is much more heavily unionised.
Verizon has also agreed to create 1,000 new call centre jobs between now and 2020, which would be covered by union agreements, and reduce the number of planned call centre closures. Significantly, the new contracts will also cover unionised workers at Verizon Wireless stores. This is the first time staff on the wireless side of the business, historically far less well unionised, have been included in a collective bargaining agreement. It should give a boost to efforts to unionise Verizon wireless workers.
Verizon bosses claimed that some of the agreements would still allow them to make efficiency savings, and even cut jobs. Under the terms of the settlement, they retain the right to offer workers voluntary severance packages once a year. Nevertheless, CWA President Chris Shelton described the outcome as a “huge win” that “affirmed the power of working people”.