CenturyLink's largest union rejects contract

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

DENVER (AP) — Members of the largest union representing CenturyLink workers rejected a tentative contract deal reached in July, but officials said no strike is imminent.

The Communications Workers of America District 7, which represents Qwest employees who are now employed by CenturyLink, voted 54 percent to 46 percent on Sunday to turn down the deal.

The union covers 11,000 workers in 13 states, including about 2,000 in Colorado. CenturyLink acquired Denver-based Qwest in 2011.

The current contract has been extended on a temporary basis since expiring last October and is in effect until Thursday. If the pact isn't extended again, the union could call a strike or the company could authorize a lockout.

CenturyLink said the proposed contract would reduce pay disparities and offer employees pay and benefits aligned with similar jobs in their markets. Along with wage increases, it included a commitment from the company to return jobs that were outsourced, the company said.

The union's membership covers call-center operators, network technicians and other front-line employees.

CenturyLink spokesman Mark Molzen said late Sunday that the company was disappointed that some employees had voted to reject the proposal.

"While we understand the proposed agreement is a change from the contract in place today, we believe it is fair and equitable given the significant changes in our competitive and operating environment since the current agreement was adopted," Molzen said.

CWA District 7 spokesman Al Kogler said no work stoppage is imminent, the Denver Post reported (http://tinyurl.com/pfmmld2).

In a letter to members dated Sept. 5, union leaders outlined other possible options besides a strike or lockout if the tentative deal was rejected. The parties could return to the bargaining table, or the company could terminate the contract that had been extended and implement the tentative agreement or portions of it.

"If we went on strike, it would be classified as an economic strike meaning we could be permanently replaced," according to a letter signed by CWA District 7 vice president Mary Taylor and bargaining committee chair Reed Roberts.

The last time CWA-represented employees for the company went on strike was in 1998. The 15-day work stoppage cost CenturyLink predecessor US West, which merged with Qwest in 2000, an estimated $20 million.

CenturyLink, Colorado's largest landline phone service provider, and CWA District 7 opened negotiations on a new contract in August 2012.


Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com