Qwest, unions reach
tentative three-year pact
Agreement averts strike; members voting next month
By Roger Fillion and Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Qwest Communications reached a tentative three-year labor
agreement with two of its unions, averting a possible strike a
week before the start of the Democratic National Convention in
The deal applies to some 20,000 employees with the
Communications Workers of America and the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
In a news release, the CWA said general wage increases total
more than 9 percent compounded over the three years of the
contract. Sales employees receiving commissions would receive an
increase in their base salary as well. The settlement also
provides a 3 percent increase in pensions.
Workers providing directory assistance services were brought
under the main CWA agreement and would get a wage increase in
the third year of the contract.
Union members are expected to vote on the deal in early
September. "I'm thinking two to three weeks minimum," said CWA
spokesman Al Kogler.
The deal was announced shortly after 1 a.m. Monday. It came
after marathon bargaining sessions on Saturday and Sunday.
Negotiations had stalled over health care and wages shortly
after the current contract expired at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. But the
two sides resumed bargaining late Sunday afternoon with talks
stretching into the night.
The two unions represent about 20,000 workers in 13 West and
states, or 57 percent of Qwest's employees. The employees are
mostly customer-service workers and technicians who install and
Qwest is the official phone and Internet provider to the DNC and
the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul. It's
donating up to $6 million in services to each convention.
Negotiations began in early July.
The two unions agreed on a new contract with Verizon a week ago.
New York-based Verizon agreed to boost workers' wages nearly 11
percent over three years and the company agreed to continue to
pay 100 percent of current employee and retiree health premiums.
By contrast, the Qwest deal "mitigated cost increases" for
active workers and retirees, according to the CWA.
"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.
The Qwest pact shares some similarities with the Verizon deal.
But one union official noted that Verizon is a more financially
"We didn't get everything we wanted," CWA District 7 Vice
President Louise Caddell said in a statement.
"But we achieved the best settlement possible in light of
Qwest's struggle to regain its financial health."
The tentative three-year pact between Qwest and its two unions,
as outlined by the Communications Workers of
* General wage increases total more than 9 percent compounded
over the three years.
* Sales employees receiving commissions would get an increase in
their base salary as well.
* Pensions would increase by 3 percent.
* Workers providing directory assistance services would come
under the main CWA agreement and get a wage hike in the third
year of the contract.
* New language governs work quotas for technicians under the
"quality jobs per day" provision that had been a sticking point
between the sides.
* Job security was "strengthened" for building maintenance
workers and other job titles.
* The health care plan agreed upon "mitigated" cost increases
for active and retired employees.