Long-term harmony between labor and management is difficult to come by in the tumultuous telecommunications industry. IBEW System Council T-3 has found it with one of the nation’s leading companies.

The IBEW reached a tentative five-year agreement with AT&T on April 26 that provides workers with a 13.25 percent wage increase during the term of the deal and a $1,000 signing bonus. Most of the 5,000 members covered by it are wireline employees based in Illinois and northwest Indiana, but it also covers some members in California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan and New Jersey. Membership voting will be completed by May 25.

AT&T also announced it will hire 1,000 workers for a new, Chicago-based call center. That was not part of the negotiated agreement, but the IBEW will represent those workers.

“We believe that this agreement is a testament to the strong relationship the IBEW has with AT&T and represents a fair and mutually beneficial agreement in a challenging and changing industry,” International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said.

Kevin Curran, an international representative in the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Department who helped negotiate the deal, said it addressed most of the concerns the IBEW had beforehand.

“In our industry, which is changing and where customers have more and more mediums they can turn to, the five-year term is good job security for our members,” Curran said. “The other thing that stands out is the 1,000 jobs. It’s not part of the agreement, but the fact that we’re growing jobs instead of contracting them is really important.”

The deal also includes increased pension contributions from the company. AT&T will match employee contributions to its 401(k) plan at a higher level. The company also agreed to the IBEW’s request for a no-layoff pledge through March 2018.

Downers Grove, Ill., Local 21 Business Manager Paul Wright, chairman of System Council T-3, said the boost in matching contributions in the 401(k) will lead to an overall increase in pay for most workers covered by the agreement.

“The moratorium on the layoffs helps our members because our industry is changing so rapidly,” Wright said. “It’s basically a welcome pause from everything that is going on. It helps the general morale of all the employees and lets them get some stability in their lives.”

The agreement comes about nine months after the IBEW reached two agreements with AT&T covering employees for DirecTV, which AT&T purchased in August 2015. One covers 1,600 members in 14 states in AT&T’s field services group. The other is for 1,300 call-center employees in Missoula, Mont., and Boise, Idaho, which followed a successful organizing effort by the IBEW.

The most recent contract allows for a national transfer plan, which allows for members covered by all three of the IBEWs SCT-3/AT&T agreements to transfer to jobs within any of the agreements during surplus and non-surplus times.

Consumers’ ways of communicating and viewing content are changing quickly, making it difficult to reach long-term labor agreements, Curran said. But both sides negotiated fairly and reached a deal that works for both, he said. The previous four-year agreement expires June 24.

“This enhances our relationship with AT&T,” he said.

Local unions covered by the agreement are:

  • Downers Grove, Ill., Local 21.
  • Detroit Local 58.
  • Chicago Local 134.
  • Milwaukee Local 494.
  • East Windsor, N.J., Local 827.
  • San Francisco Local 1269.
  • Boston Local 2222.
  • Springfield, Mass., Local 2324.
  • Worcester, Mass., Local 2325.