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Verizon reaches tentative deal to end employee strike

The dispute had gotten so bad the Labor Department had to step in to help with the talks.

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Verizon has made peace with its employees.

The New York telecommunications giant has agreed in principle to a four-year contract with employees represented by the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions, according to the US Labor Department in a statement issued Friday. The dispute, which prompted 36,000 union workers to go on strike April 14, spurred the Labor Department to step in to help find a resolution.

The return of the workers, which is expected early next week, removes a headache for Verizon and its landline, Internet and television customers in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast territory. The strike led to service disruptions and slower response to outages and installation needs.

Verizon had pushed to consolidate call centers, cap pension benefits and cut health care for employees in the landline business, angering workers. The unions say Verizon is also trying to ramp up its reliance on cheaper outside contractors to finish certain jobs.

The company, which employs a total of 177,000 workers, argues its landline business no longer sees growth and said it is shifting its resources behind the hotter wireless business.

"Nostalgia for the rotary-phone era won't save American jobs, any more than ignoring the global forces reshaping the auto industry saved the Detroit automakers," CEO Lowell McAdam said in a LinkedIn post right before the strike began.

Verizon confirmed the agreement, but only pointed to the Labor Department statement.

"The agreement in principle at Verizon is a victory for working families across the country and an affirmation of the power of working people," said CWA President Chris Shelton in a statement.

While Verizon has been negotiating a new contract with the two unions since June, it also spent months preparing for a possible strike. The company trained thousands of nonunion workers to take over wireline jobs during the strike.

Verizon last dealt with a strike in 2011, when 45,000 workers walked off the job.