By Gautham Nagesh - 08/20/11 05:41 PM EDT
The 45,000 unionized Verizon employees currently on strike will return to work on Tuesday after the two sides reached an agreement on a process to move forward with negotiations.
The firm said the employees will return to work under the terms of the contracts that expired on August 6, which will be extended indefinitely so the parties can take their time to resolve the remaining issues.
"We remain committed to our objectives, and we look forward to negotiating the important issues that are integral to the future health of Verizon’s wireline business.”
Both sides said they had come to an agreement for a bargaining process and structure to resolve the issues on the table, which involve unionized employees picking up part of the $4 billion Verizon spends on healthcare.
The union contends Verizon is asking for an unacceptable $1 billion in concessions, or a $20,000 cut in compensation per employee.
Communications Workers of America (CWA) spokesperson Candice Johnson told The Hill what really changed negotiations was Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam's personal involvement to restructure bargaining. She said the strike all along had been "purely about bargaining rights" and the union's ability to sit down with the company and have its voice heard.
"We're not talking about victory or winners or losers, we're talking about let's go foward. Now we have the groundwork," Johnson said. She said the two sides have yet to reach any agreement over the concessions at the heart of the dispute.
In his statement Reed praised Verizon's management team and said the group's competence and hard work had prevented any service disruptions and allowed the firm "to convince the unions to begin bargaining with us in good faith." Johnson called that portion of the statement "disappointing."
"That's completely wrong," Johnson said. "That statement just completely contradicts the work we did over the past few days."
Still, Johnson said workers are ready to go forward with the re-structured, re-focused negotiations early next week. Some workers whose shifts last into the next day will report to work on Monday but the vast majority will not return to work until Tuesday.