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AT&T Makes ‘Final’ Contract Offer to 20,000 Wireless Workers

AT&T workers in Philadelphia walk out on strikeAT&T workers in Philadelphia walk out on strike
AT&T workers in Philadelphia walk out on strike on May 19, 2017. Photo credit: CWA

AT&T made what it called a “final offer” directly to about 20,000 unionized employees in its wireless business who have been working without a contract since February. But the Communications Workers of America union, which represents the employees, blasted the proposal and the company’s effort to email the terms directly to employees ahead of a planned bargaining session scheduled for next week.

Under the proposed four-year contract, workers would get pay raises totaling 10%, a $1,000 bonus, and the promise of a U.S. job offer if the store or call center where they work was closed. Among other terms, the offer also proposed that the company would continue to provide a pension plan and 401(k) savings plan with an 80% match on up to 6% of contributions.

The CWA called the emailed offer “a dirty, bad faith ploy,” in a statement to its members. “They want you to be fooled into thinking this is a good deal and addresses your needs.”

AT&T said it sent a prior offer to the union bargaining team four weeks ago and never heard back, adding that the union cancelled a session scheduled for Monday. “This is exactly why we shared our latest proposal directly to our employees represented by the union,” an AT&T spokesman said. “While these negotiations have dragged on we’ve finalized, and employees have voted to approve, seven other fair contracts since bargaining began in January.”

AT&T and its unionized workers have generally had good run of labor relations over the past few years, with more than 30 deals struck since the beginning of 2015. But last year’s seven-week strike by Verizon workers that ended with a better deal than the company’s last offer has emboldened union members in the telecommunications industry. And Verizon also tried the tactic of making a “final offer,” an aggressive stance that helped bring on the strike.

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During the months of prior AT&T wireless talks, the 20,000 workers have been concerned about reduced commission rates, increasing healthcare costs, and the risk of job losses from outsourcing and the use of third-party vendors. AT&T has been trying to cut costs at a time when both its wired and wireless businesses face shrinking revenue. The company’s stock has dropped 21% so far this year compared with a 15% gain in the S&P 500 Index.

Workers at AT&T (T) have been ramping up protest and picketing activity around the country, and in a nod to the Verizon (VZ) workers’ successful tactics, visited call center workers in the Dominican Republic hired by AT&T for taking calls from U.S. customers.

In May, the wireless workers along with about 17,000 employees who work in California and Nevada in the carrier’s traditional wired telephone and Internet businesses and its DirecTV unit, went out on a brief weekend strike. The wired workers agreed on a new contract in August after a federal mediator helped bring the two sides together.