Thousands of AT&T Workers Await Strike as Contract Negotiations Continue
LOS ANGELES, Apr 08, 2012 (KTLA-TV - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
As many as 40,000 AT&T employees will keep working after their union contracts expired at midnight.
The issues at the heart of the negotiations, union representatives say, are job protection clauses and health care benefits. In particular, they say AT&T wants to increase healthcare costs for workers.
Last weekend, Communications Workers of America authorized a strike against Dallas-based AT&T Inc. if no agreement could be met at midnight on Saturday, April 7.
Employees told KTLA they had been expecting a text message at midnight saying whether they would be going on strike, but both sides say they're continuing talks through the weekend.
Union representatives say a lot of ground must still be covered to reach an agreement, but that "some progress" has been made since the first contracts began to expire after midnight eastern time on Saturday.
An AT&T spokesman said the negotiations reflected the "spirit of the longstanding relationship" between AT&T and the union.
The possible strike mostly heavily affects 18,000 employees working for land-line phone services in the Midwest, Nevada and California.
Customers could expect customer service calls to go unanswered and lags in maintenance. AT&T says they have been training non-union workers.
"Our employees in these contracts are very well compensated -- and we are not proposing to reduce their wages or to take away their health care benefits," AT&T spokesperson Marty Richter said in a statement. Richter also said the average technician makes $133,000 and the average call center rep makes $107,000, all after wages and benefits.
The last contracts were negotiated three years ago, and even though talks extended past expiration, an agreement was reached without a strike.
About 140,000 of AT&T's 256,00 employees are union members.
The union also authorized a strike last summer when talks broke down with Verizon, causing over 35,000 workers to walk off the job for two weeks.
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