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News ::
23 Jul 2003

By G. Dunkel
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the July 24, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By G. Dunkel

Verizon lost and the Communication Workers of America won. 2,300 workers laid off a week before last Christmas must be rehired with back pay, according to an arbitrator's decision released July 10. Workers reassigned to cover these slots will get their original jobs back.

This victory, "will give 2,300 people their lives back," said Larry
Mancino, vice president of CWA District One. "That's how important this decision is."

According to the CWA, the back pay amounts to $100 million. Verizon,
naturally, says the figure is much lower.

The arbitrator ruled that the external events cited by the company to
justify these layoffs--a faltering economy and increased competition--
did not meet the requirements laid out in the contract.

Since this was an arbitrator's decision, it is final and the company
can't appeal it. But the contract between Verizon and the CWA and IBEW--the electrical workers' union which represents some of Verizon's workers--expires Aug. 2.

This contract battle was going to be difficult to settle before the
ruling. It is now going to be more difficult.

Verizon is a very profitable company, making $4.08 billion last year and paying its two top executives a total of $40 million a year.

The company is in the telecommunication industry, which is subject to
sweeping changes and fierce competition.

Most of Verizon's competitors are non union and so Verizon wants to
drive its labor costs down to their level. So it is demanding steep
reductions in its health-care costs, a tight absenteeism policy and the right to "flexibility"--that is to reassign workers to shifts and areas at the company's convenience.

Some union members think Verizon wants a strike as a test of how many
employees it actually needs to run its 57-million-line network. The
actual operation of its network is automated, but repairs and
installations are not, so personnel levels are hard to calculate.

Loosing the 2,300 workers in New York was noticeable. The Public Service Commission in New York issued a scathing report about Verizon's poor service after the layoffs and forbade it to raise its prices for three months.

"I think management is really trying to bust the union on this one,"
Conversent CEO Robert Shanahan told the Boston Globe, July 7. "I think
they're prepared to let them strike until they break. As a result, every line we need that we can get in now, we're trying to get in." Conversent is a telephone company in Massachusetts that rents some of its lines from Verizon.

According to the July 12 St. Petersburg Times, Verizon is forcing non-
union employees to attend a week of 12-hours a day training sessions to learn the basics of pole climbing, phone line installation and other jobs. Whether enough replacements can be trained and whether the
supervisors will have the physical stamina needed is another question.
Retired supervisors are refusing to come back because Verizon has
already cut their benefits.

While the company might be planning to bust the union, the CWA is not
going to lie down and roll over. The CWA led a bitter 100-day walkout at Verizon's predecessor Nynex in 1989, which won important benefits. They held a major demonstration June 16 in front of the PSC's headquarters in Manhattan to raise the issue of how Verizon's layoffs affect service.

They have told the company that they are going to mobilize and fight.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe wwnews-
on (at) Unsubscribe wwnews-off (at) Support the
voice of resistance
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