Bargaining between AT&T and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) is underway on a replacement contract for some 21,000 AT&T Mobility employees, and the pressure is on to come up with a deal before the old contract expires in less than two weeks.
According to a release from CWA, negotiations between the union and AT&T began on Wednesday, just 18 days before the old contract is set to expire on Feb. 11. CWA said it is ready to push hard for better wages and job security.
“We do a lot to make AT&T successful, but the company wants us to do even more, for less. This company is making a profit of more than $1 billion a month, but is closing our call centers and shutting down retail stores. AT&T wireless workers like me are taking action, and standing up for our jobs and our customers,” AT&T Mobility Customer Service Representative Sarrah Nasser said in a statement.
The aforementioned contract would cover 21,000 Mobility workers across the country, including wireless technicians, retail store, and customer service employees. But CWA indicated around 17,000 customer service workers and technicians in California and Nevada are also awaiting a new contract after theirs expired in April 2016. The union said the latter group “told AT&T they’re ready to bargain when the company gets serious about protecting good, middle-class jobs, and reaching a fair contract.”
Additionally, CWA said a third contract covering 21,000 workers in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas is also set to expire this coming April.
An AT&T spokesman on Monday said the carrier’s objective in contract negotiations is to “reach a fair agreement that will allow us to continue to provide our employees with solid union-represented careers with great wages and benefits.” The spokesman indicated the carrier is still working toward that goal in the case of the contract for the 17,000 California and Nevada employees and “continue(s) to communicate with the union and work toward an agreement.”
Contract negotiations between the carriers and unions are generally a routine tug-of-war. But last year, negotiations between AT&T’s wireless rival Verizon and its CWA and IBEW wireline and wireless workers spiraled out of hand. The result was a 49-day strike and negotiation stalemate that was resolved only when the U.S. Labor Secretary stepped in to bring both parties back to the bargaining table. The seven-week strike impacted Verizon’s second quarter earnings, dragging down total operating revenue and earnings per share.
But AT&T has successfully been down the negotiation road since then.
In mid-July, more than 40,000 AT&T Mobility employees initially rejected a new four-year contract offered by the carrier, but a new agreement was quickly reached in early August.