AUSWR
The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

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
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By Steve Raabe
Denver Post
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 Tuesday.

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 be reached.

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 work stoppage."

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."

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948 or sraabe@denverpost.com

http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_10603437