Qwest workers say no to contract
No work stoppages are planned, but one was OK'd in August before
a deal was reached with the union.
By Steve Raabe
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Members of the Communications Workers of America at Qwest
rejected a proposed new contract Tuesday covering 20,000
employees in 13 states.
No work stoppages are immediately planned.
A CWA District 7 official said the union and Qwest will meet
this afternoon to discuss the failed ratification vote and to
negotiate an extension of the previous contract, which expired
Qwest and the CWA, the company's largest union, reached the
tentative agreement Aug. 17. It called for wage increases
totaling 9.2 percent over three years but with higher
health-care premiums for workers and retirees. The deal
was subject to approval by union members.
CWA officials would not disclose the vote tally. Spokesman
Al Kogler said: "It wasn't close. It definitely was
a majority" of workers voting to reject the deal.
The CWA in August had authorized a strike if a new deal couldn't
Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs said the company "remains completely
operational. At this point, we have a contingency plan in
place and we're prepared to put that to work should there be a
The contingency plan primarily involves management employees
covering union job functions.
"We are disappointed, and we're puzzled that members would turn
down the stability of good jobs and good wages and good overall
benefits, and traded that for the uncertainty of a prolonged
contract dispute," Toevs said.
The tentative deal, reached after a series of late-night and
early-morning bargaining sessions in August, had averted the
threat of a strike one week before the Democratic National
Convention kicked off in Denver with Qwest as the main supplier
of phone and Internet service.
Kogler said CWA officials believe it's the first time in at
least 40 years that union members have rejected a tentative
contract with Qwest or its predecessor telephone companies.
Kogler said union officials were not yet prepared to discuss why
the contract vote failed, although he acknowledged that some
members are upset with Qwest's work-quota requirements despite
some concessions that were negotiated in the proposed new deal.
"That's one of the things we felt good about that we
accomplished," Kogler said. "But maybe some of the members
didn't think that was adequately addressed."
Raabe: 303-954-1948 or