This time, it looks like there will
be no repeat of contentious contract negotiations with Verizon.
The IBEW, along with the Communications Workers of America, announced last month it had reached an agreement with the company to extend the current collective bargaining agreement another four years until June 2023, pending approval by members.
The last two contract negotiations with Verizon led to work stoppages, including a 49-day strike in 2016 in which then-Labor Secretary Tom Perez intervened and helped both sides reach an agreement.
That appeared to be a turning point. New Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg officially took over on Aug. 1 of this year. The company showed more respect for the IBEW’s and CWA’s requests in these negotiations and agreed to narrow the focus to wages, benefits and how long the contract would be extended for.
“We wanted to give the membership a break,” said Boston Local 2222 Business Manager Myles Calvey, who also is chairman of IBEW System Council T-6 and a member of the International Executive Council. “They’ve been through two strikes and done everything we’ve asked of them. This is the right message to send.”
The new agreement covers more than 34,000 workers, including about 10,000 IBEW members, and calls for an 11.1 percent wage increase over the life of the deal. That increase will more than offset a rise in health-insurance costs, Syracuse, N.Y., Local 2213 Business Manager Barbara Carson said.
“This four-year agreement buys our people peace of mind,” said Carson, who represents about 400 members covered by the proposed agreement. “People who thought they might be on the chopping block are safe for the next 4-5 years.”
That security is huge for Local 2213 members, many of whom work in Verizon call centers and were concerned that more of their jobs were going to be sent overseas.
“So far, the members I’ve spoken to are very happy and relieved about it,” Carson said.
East Windsor, N.J., Local 827 Business Manager Robert Speer, whose membership includes about 4,000 Verizon employees covered by the agreement, said it will allow the company to continue its plans to expand its highly-regarded Fios network.
Fios is a bundled Internet, telephone and television service that operates over a fiber-optic network and is used by five million customers in nine states. It has received positive reviews, but Verizon has been criticized for not rolling it out quickly enough in many areas, including New York City.
But Speer said that is changing in New Jersey, where the work to build out Fios is being done by technicians who are Local 827 members. That expansion will provide more security for everyone covered by the agreement, he said.
“I want them to continue to build that out here in the state of New Jersey so all of our members will have the ability to retire,” he said. “This is not only the new product, but it’s the best product out there. I really do believe that and I believe consumers will notice that.”
Voting on the agreement is expected to take place sometime this month.