On Wednesday morning, nearly 40,000 unionized Verizon workers walked off the job and went on strike in one of the biggest U.S. walkouts in recent years.
According to CBS MoneyWatch, recent contract negotiations between the telecommunications giant and unions — which represent Verizon’s customer service workers, installers, repairmen and other technicians involved with Verizon’s wireline network — hit an impasse, inciting workers to hit the picket lines. The union workers have been without a contract since August.
Verizon maintains that the strike will have little, if any, noticeable impact on its service to customers.
“Meeting the needs of our customers is our top priority right now,” said Raymond McConville, a company spokesman, adding Verizon expects service disruptions to be “minimal.”
It’s important to note that Verizon’s wireline operations — which include landline, high-speed internet and television services — are located primarily in the Northeast. So unless you use those services, there’s a good chance you won’t notice any issues.
Verizon said in a press release that it has been preparing for a potential strike for more than a year. The company has trained thousands of non-union workers to perform the duties of union workers walking the picket line.
“Since last spring, many of these employees took part in extensive network training sessions at a high-tech, custom designed business continuity training center in northern Virginia, created especially for this potential event,” said Bob Mudge, president of Verizon’s wireline network operations. “With any sort of job action or disruption to our business, our primary goal is to ensure our customers can count on the critical communications services that they pay for and we provide. I want them to know that will happen.”
Despite Verizon’s reassurances to customers, the striking union workers said their walkout will not go unnoticed. Says The New York Times:
But judging from numbers alone, Verizon’s wireline customers can reasonably expect deterioration in customer service quality. Even with preparation, the company said it had trained only upward of 10,000 employees to fill in for the nearly 36,000 workers who went on strike. In addition, many unionized workers who are striking have been doing this type of work for far longer than the one year that Verizon has trained non-union workers to fill in.
“There will almost certainly be some functions which may be slower or unavailable during the strike, because they require specialized skills or there just aren’t sufficient alternative resources available to fill all functions,” Jan Dawson, an independent technology analyst for Jackdaw Research, explained to the Times.
There’s no word yet on how long the strike may last.
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