Verizon-Union Standoff Ends With Tentative Deal

Nearly 40,000 striking Verizon employees belonging to the carrier's wireline business unit are slated to return to work Wednesday as the ink dries on the new, tentative contract between Verizon and two unions.

Telecom giant Verizon and the two striking unions -- the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- met once again at the bargaining table over the holiday weekend. The new negotiations are putting to rest a labor strike that lasted close to seven weeks, much to the relief of the carrier's channel partners.

While several partners agreed that the fallout from this strike wasn't as painful as the effects of the carrier's last labor strike in 2011, many partners did notice service disruptions and installation delays.

[Related: Partners Say Verizon Strike Is Impacting Business]

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"We're certainly experiencing effects from the strike," said one solution provider executive and Verizon partner who requested anonymity. "[Firm order commitment] FOC dates are being missed. Then, somebody may show without notice."

During the "Day of Action" in early May when striking employees took once again to the picket line after being on strike for about a month, one solution provider exec told CRN that the company was grappling with customer complaints regarding maintenance to their services. Yet another Verizon partner described channel support representatives' being diverted to different areas of Verizon's business to help out during the strike.

But the labor dispute also shined a light on the value that solution provider partners can bring business customers, who have more options and solutions to choose from now, according to the anonymous solution provider executive.

"We've [been] dispatching our field engineers more frequently to team with the available Verizon resources just to keep our clients' businesses running," the executive added.

Verizon, alongside the two unions representing employees from its landline voice, high-speed Internet and television services units, as well as some employees from its wireless business unit, have reached a "tentative" agreement with the help of the Department of Labor. Employees are expected to return to work this week while these union members will vote to approve the new contract terms by June 17.

Under the terms of the tentative agreement, the two unions will receive a nearly 11 percent raise, as well as an increase in pension benefits. Verizon is promising to add about 1,400 new unionized call center jobs over the next four years. The carrier also said it will cut back on the number of call center closings it had planned, and will scale back on using contracted employees.

Additionally, one of the most important issues in the eyes of striking employees was Verizon's proposed plan to relocate some workers for up to two months anywhere in its geographic coverage area, a plan that has now been withdrawn by the carrier.

Employees aren't the only parties that are declaring triumph. Under the tentative contract, Verizon can provide buyout incentives to employees once a year, potentially making it easier to eliminate jobs as the carrier shifts its focus to cellular services, partners said.

"Verizon [has] moved significantly into the higher end enterprise services … and we all know their cellular emphasis," the anonymous Verizon partner said.

Marc Reed, chief administrative officer for Verizon, said in a statement that the new contract terms will allow the carrier to be more flexible and competitive, and include "key changes sought by the company to better position our wireline business for success in the digital world."

Despite predictions that unionized employees will sign off on the proposed terms and the strike will come to a formal end in June, Verizon still expects to feel the effects of the strike, which began April 13, in its second quarter earnings. The carrier is expected to report its second quarter 2016 earnings in July, and had already noted that net new customer additions will be down because of installation delays.