Verizon Communications Inc.'s striking workers will return to work on Tuesday, Aug. 23, even though they don't have a contract, and recent news reports have the two sides still far apart on key issues.
Officials of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) announced today that the strike is ending because the two sides have agreed on how to conduct bargaining.
"We have reached agreement with Verizon on how bargaining will proceed and how it will be restructured," the unions said in a statement. "The major issues remain to be discussed, but overall, issues now are focused and narrowed."
Some 45,000 workers had been on strike since Aug. 7, fighting Verizon demands that workers pay substantially more for health care, lose job security protections and accept work rule changes that give Verizon more flexibility in using non-union labor. (See Strike Rhetoric Benefits No One.)
As The New York Times notes in reporting the strike's end, the strike hit both sides hard. In addition to losing paychecks, the workers were threatened with loss of health care if the strike went past Aug. 31, according to the AFL-CIO blog.
And Verizon absorbed much criticism as well, including some from customers whose installation and repair work was delayed, and even from members of Congress, including some Massachusetts Democrats who joined the picket line this week.
Union leaders are hoping that getting Verizon to focus on the key issues will enable them to wring some concessions from a company that seems very determined not to yield. But the unions are not in a strong position -- Verizon's wireline business is shrinking, and is not only not producing revenue growth but tallying operating revenue losses.
Chances are the decision to end the strike is a prelude to more concessions by the unions, as their members seek to hang on to what they can of the jobs that served them well in an era that is long gone.
Here's a look at the turbulent two weeks of strike activity:
â€” Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading