NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Hoping to avert a strike by more than 72,000 phone operators and technicians, local telephone company Verizon Communications said on Friday it submitted a new contract proposal to its largest union.|
More than a quarter of Verizon's employees could walk off the job Sunday if the New York-based company and the Communications Workers of America do not reach a contract settlement. A strike could adversely affect service for 27 million customers from Maine to Virginia.
Details of the new proposal were not immediately available, but union officials said they were reviewing it.
Verizon (VZ: Research, Estimates) could lose 28 percent of its work force, primarily telephone operators, line technicians and clerical workers, to the strike if an agreement is not reached by 12:01 am ET Sunday.
Even if a strike proceeds, it will not cause a disruption in standard telephone service. But the strike could cause delays in repair and service operations, and in directory assistance calls, as well as delays in billing and new line installations, the company said.
Workers say they are bargaining for higher pay, better conditions and better benefits, as well as right to organize in Verizon's wireless business, a separate joint venture with Vodafone AirTouch.
CWA spokesman Jeff Miller said earlier this week differences in wages and benefits between union and nonunion workers are significant. He said the pay scale for union-covered service representatives tops out at $44,400 a year, while workers doing similar jobs in the wireless operation make only $33,000.
Miller added that nonunion workers also are far behind on benefits.
Although the union is demanding concessions to make it easier to organize at the wireless company, Verizon spokesman Steve Marcus said the union doesn't need them to conduct an organizing campaign.
He said the company needs flexibility in deciding what it pays wireless workers.
"We're committed to fair compensation for our workers, but it's essential that we be able to compete and succeed in the face of rapid changes and expanding competition," he said.
Verizon still is in negotiations to sell a portion of its Midwest wireless assets for nearly $1.4 billion.
Shares of Verizon fell 1-3/4 to 46-1/4 in early trading.
-- from staff and wire reports