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Qwest, unions reach agreement, avert strike
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Monday, August 18, 2008

Qwest and its two unions have reached tentative agreements on new, three-year contracts, averting a potential strike one week before the National Democratic Convention in Denver.

The agreements were announced shortly after 1 a.m. this morning.  Neither Qwest nor the unions immediately disclosed contract details.

The tentative agreement between Qwest and its largest union, the Communications Workers of America, came after marathon bargaining sessions Saturday and Sunday.  The CWA represents nearly 20,000 union workers.

Negotiations had stalled over health care and wages shortly after the current contract expired on 12:01 a.m. Sunday, but the two sides resumed bargaining late Sunday afternoon with talks stretching into the night.

CWA spokesman Al Kogler said he doesn’t expect the union to disclose details of the agreement until later today.  But he indicated the union leadership believes that the new deal meets the objectives of getting a fair wage increase, job security and good health care provisions.

Qwest also reached a tentative agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents about 200 union workers in Montana.

The tentative agreements still must be ratified by union members.

"I appreciate the collaborative effort the bargaining teams made in confronting key issues facing employees and Qwest, especially health care," said Teresa Taylor, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Qwest.  "I'm confident Qwest will be a stronger company because of (the) result."

Qwest is the official phone and Internet provider to the DNC and the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and is donating up to $6 million each in services to each convention.

It was deemed critical the Denver telco avert a work stoppage during the conventions.  But Qwest, which recently lowered its financial forecast, also was under pressure to get a good deal at the bargaining table.

The CWA agreed not to call a strike Sunday, even after the current contract expired.  There was informational picketing in some areas, with workers calling for a fair contract.

smithje@RockyMountainNews or 303-954-5155

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/aug/18/qwest-union-talking-late-night/