Verizon and union representatives are headed back to the bargaining table this week following a meeting with U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez over the weekend.
According to a release from the Department of Labor, Perez stepped into the fray last week with an invitation to both parties to meet with him in Washington. The parties came together on Sunday in an effort to resolve the more than month-long strike that has kept nearly 40,000 wireless and wireline workers on the sidelines while Verizon has scrambled to fill in the gaps.
With Perez’s guidance, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, Communications Workers of America (CWA) president Chris Shelton and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) president Lonnie Stephenson reportedly had an “open, frank and constructive dialogue” about finding a way to resolve the dispute.
Talks are scheduled to resume Tuesday, Perez’s office said.
“The best way to resolve this labor dispute is at the bargaining table, and I am heartened by the parties’ mutual commitment to get back to immediate discussions and work toward a new contract,” Perez said in a statement. “I was singularly impressed by the parties’ appreciation that time is of the essence, and their strong commitment to use the collective bargaining process to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.”
The resumption of negotiations between Verizon and the unions comes two weeks after the carrier announced it had delivered its “best and final” contract offer to union leaders. Union officials quickly panned the offer, and both sides dug in their heels in a standoff.
Since the start of the strike on April 13, Verizon said it has deployed “thousands” of backup personnel and new automated technologies to keep operations running in lieu of the striking workers. Verizon said its emergency replacement staff includes both contract workers and employees from other departments in the company.
Earlier this month, 15 union and community protestors were arrested and six shareholder proposals – including two posed by CWA and IBEW representatives – were defeated at Verizon’s annual meeting.
The ongoing strike follows 10 months of unsuccessful contraction negotiations between union leaders and Verizon. Employees involved in the protest have been working without a contract since August 1, 2015.