Thousands of AT&T workers to stay on job as talks continue

NEW YORK Sun Apr 8, 2012 4:03am EDT

AT&T employees walk with signs as they protest against contract negotiations in front of the company's business center in Tustin, California April 5, 2012. Fifteen percent of AT&T workers could walk off the job as early as Sunday after giving their union the authority to call a strike, if labor negotiations on a range of issues from healthcare to job security turns sour. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo

AT&T employees walk with signs as they protest against contract negotiations in front of the company's business center in Tustin, California April 5, 2012. Fifteen percent of AT&T workers could walk off the job as early as Sunday after giving their union the authority to call a strike, if labor negotiations on a range of issues from healthcare to job security turns sour.

Credit: Reuters/Alex Gallardo

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 40,000 employees at AT&T Inc will keep working under the terms of an expired labor contract while their union continues negotiations with the telephone company, averting a potentially costly strike for now.

The workers in AT&T's traditional wireline telephone business and some other units voted recently to give their union, the Communications Workers of America, authority to call a strike ahead of the expiration of four separate labor contracts at midnight local time April 7.

AT&T, whose total workforce is roughly 256,000, is looking to trim worker benefits to cut costs in its wireline business, which has declined rapidly in recent years. But the union says AT&T is seeking too many concessions. In particular, it says that AT&T wants to significantly increase healthcare costs for workers.

At midnight eastern time April 7, contracts expired for almost 10,000 workers, including almost 6,000 so-called legacy AT&T workers in various states and about 4,000 workers in the eastern United States.

The union said just after midnight eastern time on Saturday that it made "some progress" but had "a lot of ground yet to cover" to reach agreement with the company. At midnight central time, a contract covering thousands more AT&T workers in the midwest region expired. AT&T said that the midwest contract covers 13,000 people while the union said it covers 15,000.

At midnight Pacific time, a fourth contract that the union said covered about 18,000 workers in western states such as California and Nevada also expired. Negotiations were continuing in that region as well, according to a union statement.

AT&T said the negotiations reflected "the spirit of the longstanding relationship" between AT&T and the union.

Last August, AT&T's rival, Verizon Communications, had to cope with a two-week strike after contracts expired for 45,000 workers. Roughly eight months later, Verizon is still negotiating with unions for a new contract.

AT&T has been negotiating with the CWA on the four contracts since February. Contracts covering another 30,000 AT&T wireline workers expire in coming months, the company said.

The last time AT&T faced a big strike was in 2004 when 100,000 workers walked out for four days on the company, which was then known as SBC Communications. SBC changed its name to AT&T Inc after it bought AT&T Corp in 2005.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Comments (5)
AZWarrior wrote:
AT&T has a real problem and so does their union. With wireless communication becoming the primary mode of phone calls, the landline business is likely to go the way of the buggy whip makers in the coming decade. The union would be wise to trade monetary concessions for job training and hiring preferances in the wireless side of the company.

Apr 08, 2012 4:49am EDT  --  Report as abuse
SanPa wrote:
At its current pace, ATT should have had every law requiring land line service repealed within 4 years — Texas is already a done deal. Once done, ATT will no longer have need for linesman, station operators, and general telco offices. In 5 years, ATT could run with fewer than 30% of its current workforce.

Apr 08, 2012 5:07am EDT  --  Report as abuse
they offer JUST enough service, to be annoying, their wireless service is spotty on a good day the garbage they sell as hi=speed internet is an absolute joke, they claim they have U-verse but it doesn’t even come close to actually covering a wide enough area to be seriously considered a communications alternative, NO AT&T got left behind the competition…and they insist price hikes and a lack of service will fix it?

Apr 08, 2012 6:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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