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Verizon, Union Agree Pay Raises, New Jobs to End Strike

  • Reuters

People demonstrate outside a Verizon wireless store during a strike in New York, U.S., April 18, 2016. Verizon and union negotiators have agreed on a deal to increase pay and jobs.

People demonstrate outside a Verizon wireless store during a strike in New York, U.S., April 18, 2016. Verizon and union negotiators have agreed on a deal to increase pay and jobs.

A tentative agreement between Verizon Communications Inc. and unions to end a nearly seven-week strike includes 1,400 new jobs and pay raises topping 10 percent, the company and unions representing about 40,000 workers said on Monday.

Verizon, the No. 1 U.S. wireless provider, and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) had reached a tentative deal on Friday. Details for the new four-year contract were disclosed on Monday.

The CWA said Verizon agreed to provide a 10.9 percent raise over four years while Verizon put the increase at 10.5 percent. It was not immediately clear why the two sides reported different percentages.

Nearly 40,000 network technicians and customer service representatives of the company's Fios internet, telephone and television services units walked off the job on April 13. Striking workers will be back on the job on Wednesday, the CWA said.

The workers have been without a contract since the agreement expired in August and healthcare coverage ran out at the end of April. In 2011, Verizon workers went on strike for two weeks after negotiations were deadlocked.

The latest work stoppage stretched across several U.S. East Coast states, including New York, Massachusetts and Virginia. Verizon brought in thousands of temporary workers to avoid service disruptions.

New York-based Verizon will add 1,300 new call center jobs on the East Coast, and 100 new network technician jobs, Verizon spokesman Richard Young said.

It will withdraw proposed cuts to pensions as well as reductions in accident and disability benefits. The company, however, won cost savings through changes in healthcare plans and limits on post-retirement health benefits.

If union members ratify the agreement, the new contract would run until August 2019.

Verizon and the two striking unions were in contract discussions with the help of the U.S. Department of Labor. In mid-May, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez brought the parties back to the negotiating table.

The strike, one of the largest in recent years in the United States, drew support from Democratic U.S. Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Potential hit to earnings

Verizon has shifted its focus in recent years to mobile video and advertising, while scaling back its Fios television and internet services. To tap new revenue, it is boosting its advertising-supported internet business and acquired AOL for $4.4 billion.

Verizon, which claims a high-quality cell network, is locked in a battle for subscribers with competitors AT&T Inc., Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc. in a saturated U.S. wireless market.

Verizon's legacy wireline business generated about 29 percent of company revenue in 2015, down about 60 percent since 2000, and less than 7 percent of operating income. Verizon Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam said last week the strike could hurt second-quarter results.

Verizon shares closed up 1 percent at $50.62 on Friday, near its 52-week high of $54.49. U.S. markets were closed on Monday for the U.S. Memorial Day holiday.

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