Qwest, Unions Seek Pact As National Political Conventions Loom - InformationWeek

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Qwest, Unions Seek Pact As National Political Conventions Loom

Around 93% of the Communications Workers of America membership voted to authorize a strike, strengthening the union's negotiating hand.

With the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, Qwest Communications is preparing to provide communications services at both conventions. However, the largest employee union at Qwest has voted to authorize a strike.

No one is predicting or threatening a strike at this point, but with 93% of the Communications Workers of America district 7 union membership approving a strike -- if necessary -- the negotiating hand of the union is buttressed by the vote.

The existing Qwest-CWA contract is scheduled to expire next Sunday, just a week before the Democratic convention is expected to begin in Denver -- the headquarters city of Qwest. With about 19,000 union members, Qwest is the smallest of the companies made up of former members of the Bell System. The largest is AT&T, followed by Verizon Communications, which on Sunday reached an agreement with 65,000 union members in a region that stretches from Maine to Virginia.

Both the company and the union have indicated they don't want a strike. "The truth is, our leaders want a contract, not to call a strike," said a CWA spokesman. "The fact they [union members] did authorize one doesn't make it any more likely."

Qwest was equally upbeat. "We're hopeful we will reach an agreement in a timely manner," said a Qwest spokesman. "We continue to bargain in good faith."

As was the case in Verizon's pact, Qwest's union members are centering much of their requests on health care payments by the companies. Another issue concerns Qwest's reliance on offshore call centers for some of its network services.

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