Communications Workers and AT&T Open Up Bargaining for Benefits

WASHINGTON –The Communications Workers and AT&T have opened up bargaining between the two sides on March 4.


The talks cover 4,800 workers at “Legacy AT&T”. The union is bargaining a new pact with Ameritech, one of the regional Bells, covering 13,000 workers in the Great Lakes states.


The company’s lead bargainer declared that AT&T faces huge competition from Dish and other networks, that its workers pay too little for their health insurance, have wages way above market rates and enjoy old-style pensions that new employees don’t want.  CWA’s lead bargainer, Laura Unger, replied that the union has a very different view.


CWA believes AT&T workers “deserve wages that keep up with the increased productivity of the workforce” and that they should have a secure retirement with healthy pensions not eaten away by health care costs,


And “we believe in jobs and that we can be trained for the jobs of the future,” Unger added.  “We want that training and we want access to those jobs.”  But if Congress enacts a controversial trade pact, the jobs of the future might be overseas, she stated.


“We are concerned with AT&T’s support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” the planned trade pact between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, several of which pay workers pennies per hour, repress them or both.  TPP “will lead to even more off-shoring of U.S. jobs,” Unger told the company.  CWA is leading the union movement’s campaign against TPP.


The union also rejects the company’s scheme to have its workers pay much more for their medical benefits. “AT&T is profitable enough that it does not need its employees” to do so, Unger said.


AT&T is demanding health care premiums that double over three years for an individual with a spouse, rise almost 40 percent for an individual worker, and rise 20 percent for a worker with a spouse and kids.


AT&T also wants co-pays and deductibles to more than double.  And the out-of-pocket maximums an individual worker would pay before insurance kicks in would rise from $2,000 to $5,200, with double those figures for families.


The company demanded that “disability be capped at 26 weeks, with a maximum of 90 percent of pay. Then, an employee will have to go on Long Term Disability — if they qualify,” the union bargaining team reported.


The union says they have set a deadline for April 11 and are prepared to strike.


Source: PAI