Verizon and two unions representing nearly 40,000 wireline and wireless workers in the Northeast have reached a tentative agreement that could end a strike that has dragged on for more than a month and a half.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez – who stepped in nearly two weeks ago to aid negotiations between Verizon and union leaders of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) – said Friday the parties had finally struck a deal.
“I am pleased to announce that the parties have reached an agreement in principle on a four-year contract, resolving the open issues in the ongoing labor dispute between Verizon’s workers, unions, and management,” Perez said in a statement. “This tentative resolution is a testament to the power of collective bargaining. I commend the leadership of Verizon, CWA, and IBEW for their commitment to resolving these difficult issues in the spirit of constructive engagement.”
The exact terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
According to Perez, Verizon and the unions are currently in the process of putting the terms of the deal on paper. Once that is complete, the proposal will be sent to CWA and IBEW union members for approval, he said.
Perez said he expects workers will be back at their posts next week.
If ratified by the unions, the deal would end a strike that has been ongoing since workers walked off the job on April 13 following 10 months of failed contract negotiations.
During the strike, Verizon said it had to deploy “thousands” of contractors and employees on special assignment to cover the gaps left by absent workers. The carrier has also turned to automation to help ease pressure on overburdened call centers.
CWA workers, who have gone without a paycheck since the strike began and lost access to benefits at the end of April, have been forced to lean on the union’s $440 million strike fund to help make ends meet.
Tensions between Verizon and the unions have been high throughout the strike’s duration, and it appeared negotiations would once again break down after union heads panned Verizon’s “last, best and final” contract offer at the end of April.
Perez, however, was able to bring both parties back to the table in mid-May and enlisted the help of federal mediator Allison Beck to facilitate negotiations.
Last week, both Verizon and the unions agreed to “make no public statements” as they hashed out the terms of a new contract with the Labor Department.