Verizon open to mediation to avert strike of workers

Scott Moritz Bloomberg

Verizon Communications Inc., preparing for a possible strike of about 39,000 landline workers from Massachusetts to Virginia, said it would be open to federal mediation to reach a new contract.

The New York-based company has trained managers and contractors to step into the striking workers’ roles, which include answering customer inquiries and repairing fiber and copper lines, according to a statement Tuesday.

But the company said it has been approached by the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service and would be willing to participate to settle the dispute.

Verizon had been negotiating with the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers since June over terms of a contract to replace one that expired Aug. 1.

“This is a fight we have to make for our families and for our future,” Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA, District One, said on a conference call Monday.

Almost all the union workers are employed by Verizon’s landline business, which has seen annual declines in the number of lines served as well as job cuts. The company has refocused on wireless and mobile video, where it sees more growth and employees aren’t in unions and are typically younger.

The nation’s largest wireless carrier wants union workers to contribute more to health benefits and be flexible on temporary job relocations.

The union, meanwhile, wants to limit those transfers of workers to other regions, protect jobs from being moved offshore and preserve pension increases.

With the stalemate dragging on, the unions gave Verizon a deadline of 6 a.m. New York time Wednesday to settle contract discussions or face a strike.

“Let’s make it clear — we are ready for a strike,” Bob Mudge, president of Verizon’s wireline network operations, said in the statement.

The last Verizon strike was in 2011. The union members returned to work after two weeks.

Of the workers, about 29,000 are represented by the CWA, 10,000 by the IBEW.

Representatives from CWA couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.