AT&T and union talks continue past deadline (Update)

Apr 04, 2009

(AP) -- AT&T and unions for its landline workers were working past a strike deadline early Sunday to try to reach agreement on a new contract.

Core wireline contracts across the country expired at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, but union-represented employees covered by those contracts continued to work under the old agreements, according to a statement issued by AT&T.

The two sides are still far apart but union members in the East will continue to report to work for now, said Candice Johnson, spokeswoman for the Communications Workers of America.

"The CWA bargaining teams are very frustrated by AT&T's slow pace in negotiations," Johnson said late Saturday.

AT&T stands ready to negotiate at any time in a continuing effort to reach an agreement, company spokesman Walt Sharp said.

AT&T is the most heavily unionized company in the U.S., with either 112,500 CWA workers (according to the company) or 125,000 (according to the union).

The company has said a strike won't disrupt phone service because managers and contractors can keep the operation running. When this batch of contracts expired five years ago, workers struck for four days before reaching an agreement.

One key issue is the Dallas-based company's attempt to have workers and retirees pay more of the costs of their health care. The company has said it spends $5.5 billion per year to subsidize health care for 1.2 million people, including workers, retirees, and dependents.

The company said other remaining issues include wages, pensions, and work rules.

Contracts for workers in five units were each expiring at 11:59 p.m. local time in their region. Each region was bargaining separately. That means some could make a deal while others strike, Johnson said.

The units include a national group as well as workers in the Northeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West. The talks were taking place in New Haven, Conn.; Oakton, Va.; the Chicago area; Austin, Texas; and San Francisco.

An update posted Saturday by the unit that covers Midwestern workers said the company was offering "modest wage increases that would likely have our standard of living move backward over the life of the contract." AT&T also wants to reduce the value of lump-sum pension payments and eliminate the pension for new workers, the union said.

AT&T "told us that the benefits/pension proposal was a 'final offer.' They are either not serious about the word 'final' or not serious about getting a contract," the union wrote.

Workers in the Southeast, who were bargaining in Atlanta, agreed to stop negotiations and reconvene this summer. Their contract doesn't expire until August so they can't strike at midnight, the company said.

The employees covered by the expiring contracts work for the part of the company that is shrinking. AT&T's traditional wired phone business fell 3.3 percent to $17.1 billion last year, while wireless revenue grew 13 percent to $12.9 billion as customers continued to defect to cable phone services or dropped their landlines in favor of mobile phones.

AT&T earned a $12.9 billion profit for the year, up from $12 billion in 2007. Its fourth-quarter profit fell 24 percent from the prior year, though, paradoxically because of its success in selling more of Apple's iPhones than expected. AT&T subsidizes the upfront expense of the iPhone, aiming to make the money back over the two-year service contract.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Alibaba's plan: Today, China. Tomorrow, the world.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

AT&T-union negotiations expected down to the wire

Apr 03, 2009

(AP) -- Negotiators for AT&T Inc. and union officials representing 112,500 employees said Friday they expect to bargain into the weekend on five labor contracts that expire Saturday night.

AT&T hopes to gain concessions from unions

Mar 13, 2009

(AP) -- AT&T Inc., the largest employer of union labor in the country, is renegotiating contracts that cover 112,500 workers and looks set to take advantage of the recession to reduce its health care costs.

Workers Get Paid More When They Work For Powerful CEOs

May 19, 2006

For workers at publicly held companies, it literally pays to have a very powerful boss. A new study found that entrenched CEOs – those who have more control rights in their company than all other shareholders combined -- ...

Recommended for you

Alibaba's plan: Today, China. Tomorrow, the world.

20 minutes ago

Amazon and eBay should watch their backs. As Chinese e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba readies what could be the biggest initial public offering ever on the New York Stock Exchange, it is quietly hinting at plans ...

News Corp opposes Google in EU antitrust case

3 hours ago

The media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch is joining the fray in Google's protracted European antitrust case, saying the technology company unfairly distorts competition.

Apple iPhone lacks 'key' licence in China

5 hours ago

Apple's iPhone 6 still lacks a key network access licence in China, state media confirmed Thursday on the eve of its global launch, breaking official silence on why sales of the smartphone will be delayed.

Ericsson to stop making modems, shed hundreds of jobs

5 hours ago

Swedish telecom equipment company Ericsson said on Thursday that it would stop developing modems, a decision affecting almost 1,600 employees worldwide which is expected to lead to hundreds of job cuts.

User comments : 0