As deadline looms, Verizon talks continue

(08/02/03) PEEKSKILL - With a midnight deadline approaching, talks continue between Verizon officials and the unions representing the phone company workers. If a deal isn't reached, 78,000 workers will go on strike, which could affect service along the East Coast, including NJ.

The union is looking for higher wages, more affordable health care and greater job security. Verizon representatives say the company wants more flexibility to adjust the size of the work force. The company is also looking to shift some healthcare costs to current workers and retirees.

The two sides began negotiating with a federal mediator on Tuesday. The current three-year contract expires at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. In 2000, the last time a new contract was sought, Verizon workers went on strike for 18 days.

If there is a strike, Verizon says its managers will cover as operators and field technicians, and that phone service will not suffer. A strike, however, could slow the maintenance and upgrading of current Verizon lines.

Based in New York, Verizon is the largest provider of local and wireless telephone service in the United States. The company, which is also the third-largest long-distance carrier in the U.S., earned more than $67 billion in revenue in 2002. Union representatives are trying to use Verizon's 2002 revenue and profits to help them at the bargaining table.


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