Verizon is one of several telecom companies working with the IBEW to balance the protection of members along with the needs of business.
.      Flickr/Creative Commons photo by ironmike9.

The IBEW has negotiated agreements with Verizon, AT&T and other companies that will provide telecommunications employee-members added flexibility in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic

The agreements, which are in addition to IBEW-negotiated collective bargaining agreements in place at the companies, will allow members additional time off if they are diagnosed with the virus, told to stay home by a doctor because they are showing symptoms or need to stay home to care for a child whose school or daycare has been closed.

“Just because the companies are taking these measures doesn’t mean our telecom members can be less concerned about their health,” Broadcasting & Telecommunications Director Robert Prunn said. “We encourage them to continue to work safely. What it does mean is they won’t have to worry about getting paid if they or a loved one gets sick or they need to care for a child.”

The IBEW has about 10,000 members working for Verizon along the East Coast and negotiated an agreement alongside the Communications Workers of America, which has tens of thousands of members employed by the same company.

“A primary stressor for many workers in a situation like this is the unknown,” Prunn said. “Verizon has been proactive in communicating how payment will be handled, how time off will be handled and what will happen if an employee becomes infected or must self-quarantine.

“This remains a challenge to manage. A broad policy approach won’t cover every situation but Verizon has committed to work on a case-by-case basis for those who don’t fit the policy.”

Verizon has also implemented policies that should make members’ work safer, such as contacting a customer before a scheduled visit by a technician to ensure that no one in the home or business has the coronavirus or is exhibiting symptoms.

“Work at home has already been implemented,” Prunn said. “In addition, they are working with employees with pre-existing conditions to self-identify and help address those concerns.”

About 7,600 IBEW members are employed nationwide by AT&T, which is “allowing employees to take excused paid time off if they need to self-quarantine because they are experiencing symptoms, have been exposed to anyone who has tested positive, returned from a high-risk country or tested positive themselves,” Prunn said. AT&T was the first telecom employer to develop a proactive plan for members.

AT&T also is allowing employees to take limited, paid time off to care for children effected by school or daycare closings.

Prunn said Altice, Comcast and CenturyLink – which employ smaller groups of IBEW members – also have policies that allow for additional flexibility when dealing with the coronavirus. He thanked all telecom employers for looking out for the needs of IBEW members while also balancing the needs of the business.

 “Obviously, the situation remains fluid and can change on a daily or even hourly basis,” he said.

International President Lonnie R. Stephenson praised the agreements and emphasized that the IBEW will continue to advocate for additional protections for telecommunications members during the pandemic, as well as for members in the IBEW’s other branches.

“The benefits and protections of union membership are more vital than ever during a time of so much fear,” Stephenson said. “We will constantly look for ways that allow our members, many of whom deal with the public in confined quarters, to work safely on the job in the days and weeks ahead.”