Partners Say Verizon Strike Is Impacting Business

One month into the Verizon strike that started when nearly 40,000 union workers walked off the job, the carrier's channel partners and the industry at large are starting to feel the effects.

Thousands of workers around the country once again took to the picket lines Thursday on what they said was a "Day of Action." Verizon issued its "last and best offer" to both unions April 28, which both unions involved in the strike -- the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- rejected.

As both New York-based Verizon and its striking employees dig in their heels, partners say business is being impacted.

One executive at a solution provider that partners with Verizon, who requested anonymity, told CRN that the carrier's sales and support representatives who usually assist channel partners are being diverted to replace striking workers in other areas of the company.

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"We have actually seen some of the representatives that regularly support us being redeployed as needed to minimize impact of the strike on end customers," the solution provider exec said.

In response to CRN's request for comment on whether channel resources have been reassigned to other areas of the company during the strike, a Verizon spokesperson said: "Nonunion employees from all areas of our business have stepped in to serve our customers."

Verizon owns much of the telecommunications network infrastructure across the country that consumers, businesses and even competing service providers rely on for the delivery of voice and data services.

The strike has "significantly" impacted business for not only Verizon, but for these competing carriers, according to another executive with a Verizon partner who asked not to be named.

"Since Verizon is the last mile, it's affecting everyone that's using them -- distribution, service providers using Verizon, which is pretty much every [provider] -- so it's pretty bad," the partner said.

The strike has lasted longer than it should, without any conclusion in sight, the executive added.

"We've certainly heard a lot of complaints. People are starting to get upset, and there's not much we can even say at this point," the executive said.

Some partners are feeling the fallout of the strike less than others.

A third executive with a Verizon partner who declined to be named said that the partner has experienced "very little impact" so far. Similar to how Verizon handled its last strike, which lasted for two weeks in 2011, the carrier has brought in nonunion staff members who have been filling in for striking workers.

"Verizon had been working really hard to prepare for this, and their nonunion workers have been well-trained," the solution provider exec said.

Verizon released an update April 29 after its annual shareholder meeting that it was deploying "thousands" of additional employees and contractors to help fill the gaps left by the striking workers.

"Employees on special assignment and contractors are currently enrolled or have recently graduated from the company’s technical training classes in Virginia," the carrier said in the update. "They will handle all duties of the company’s striking workforce, filling roles in the field and in the company’s customer service centers,"

Verizon said in the statement that these nonunion employees and contractors, alongside "over 1,000 employees who no longer wanted to strike and have returned to work," have been resolving repair dispatches and responding to customer service center inquiries, and had fulfilled "thousands" of new Fios orders.

During strikes, service takes priority over installations, according to the solution providers. Upon learning of the strike, Verizon's partners expected new installations in the pipeline would be impacted.

In the carrier's first-quarter 2016 earnings call at the end of April, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said that while the provider has deployed management employees to take on the work of the striking employees, the carrier "obviously always during this period of time fall a little bit behind on the install work," he said.

"We still see good momentum coming in from a sales perspective, so there's a little bit of a backlog there, and we will just have to work through this," Shammo added.