Thousands of Verizon Communications Inc workers on the U.S. East Coast could strike on Sunday with no sign of an agreement as contract negotiations with unions went to the wire, a union spokeswoman said on Saturday.
The largest U.S. wireless service provider has been locked in negotiations centering on healthcare costs and other issues, ahead of Saturday’s expiry of contracts covering almost 40,000 wireline service workers in nine eastern states and Washington, D.C.
Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), said the workers could go on strike on Sunday.
The strike, however, does not kick in automatically when the contract expires at midnight EDT on Saturday and a date has yet to be set, she said.
Verizon spokesman Rich Young said: “At this point, we remain committed to continuing to negotiate in good faith with our unions.”
The company said on Friday there had been little progress in the talks, and that it is ready in the event of a work stoppage.
Employees of the wireline business represented by CWA and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) last week voted to go on strike, if needed. Negotiations continue in New York and Philadelphia.
Verizon’s plans to cut costs by controlling healthcare and pension-related benefits over a three-year period are at the center of union negotiations.
The company on Friday asked the unions to work with it to make changes to its healthcare and pension benefits, ones that it says would help it compete better in the market.
The CWA said in a statement on Saturday that Verizon had not budged from its original proposal which the union said would, among other things, increase workers’ healthcare costs by thousands of dollars, eliminate job security and remove any restrictions on the company’s right to contract out or offshore union jobs.
Verizon’s wireline business includes FiOS Internet, telephone and TV services.