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Verizon averts workers strike

Company reaches a tentative agreement with two of its unions, representing 65,000 employees. Health care was one of the major sticking points.

Verizon Communications reached a deal with labor unions representing 65,000 employees, averting a strike that could have disrupted its operations across its Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic territories.

The company on Sunday reached tentative agreements with the Communications Workers of America, which represents some 50,000 Verizon technicians and the Electrical Workers union, which represents about 15,000 of Verizon's affected workers.


The new contracts, which have been shortened from five years to three years, include wage increases that total 10.5 percent over the next three years. As part of the deal, Verizon will transfer more than 600 positions in its business division to the landline group, and it will make 900 temporary workers permanent workers in the landline group. The changes will result in more than 2,500 Verizon employees now becoming union members, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The deal must now be ratified by the unions' membership.

One of the major stumbling blocks of the negotiations was over health care costs. The unions and Verizon agreed to change the way they pay for future retirees who start working at the company after August 2. Verizon agreed to continue paying premiums for active and already retired employees. But the company will contribute a fixed dollar amount for workers hired after August 2, depending on how long they've worked for the company.

The unions had threatened to strike Monday at 12:01 a.m. Talks were extended last weekend after the workers' five-year contract had expired. A strike could have affected the deployment ofVerizon's Fios, fiber-to-the-home network.