Verizon, CWA Reach Contract Agreement In Western North Carolina

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Verizon and Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 3673 yesterday reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract, ending a strike in western North Carolina that began May 19. The agreement was ratified by the union's membership last night.

The company expects its 150 striking employees to return to work starting Aug. 11.

The agreement will enable Verizon to operate more efficiently in an increasingly competitive market for telecommunications services. It also will provide a 12 percent increase in wages over the life of the contract and improvements in pensions and other benefits.

"This agreement keeps our employees among the best-compensated in the region and gives us more flexibility to succeed in a marketplace where customers use mobile phones, e-mail and instant messaging instead of traditional telephones," said John Ferrell, president of operations for Verizon's southeast region.

"We're pleased to put this long and challenging dispute behind us," said Ferrell. "We continue to believe that the 12-week strike was unnecessary, as the agreement reflects only a few minor compromises on our last offer before the strike."

Changes from the offer on the table at the time of the strike include a 0.7 percent wage increase and an extra floating holiday.

The company gained more flexibility in controlling absenteeism, a prime contributor to overtime expense in the region.

"It's now time for all of us to focus on providing outstanding service to our western North Carolina customers," said Ferrell.

The CWA's strike affected Verizon wireline service in portions of 11 counties in western North Carolina, where the company serves 100,000 phone lines from Mitchell County in the north to Cherokee County in the south. The strike did not involve employees of Verizon Wireless.

"I applaud our management team for the excellent job it did in serving customers during the strike," said Ferrell. "These men and women worked long hours, and many of them were separated from their families and homes during this time. I'm deeply proud of their spirit and dedication."

The effective date for the new contract will be from April 27, 2003, to April 22, 2006. Verizon and CWA officials had been conducting formal contract negotiations off and on since April 2 at Asheville's DoubleTree-Biltmore Hotel.

A Fortune 10 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 137.6 million access line equivalents and 34.6 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is the third largest long-distance carrier for U.S. consumers, with 14.6 million long-distance lines, and the company is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. With approximately $67 billion in annual revenues and 221,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to the Americas, Europe and Asia. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.