Workers from AT&T want greater job security and annual pay increases after a short strike that was concluded with a new contract.
More than 20,000 union members in nine southeastern states are covered by the five-year agreement reached early Wednesday between telecom company and Communications Workers of America.
Workers returned to their jobs Wednesday after a four-and-a-half day strike.
AT&T spokesman Marty Richter refused to introduce contract terms.
"We" During this process, we have been committed to reaching a fair deal, "he said.
Union officials stopped short of declaring victory, but they expressed satisfaction.
" This agreement provides significant improvements for AT&T Southeast workers, "said CWA District 3 Vice President Richard Honeycutt.
As the previous four-year contract expired, workers' main concerns were job security and the rise in health care. They also complained of stagnant earnings.
"Workers gave up a lot during the recession, and they haven't seen it come back," said Harley Shaiken, economist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "We are seeing more strikes in general, and unions are clearly becoming more assertive."
Among the provisions of the new agreement:
- Employees will receive an increase of 3% this year, followed by annual increases of 3%, 2.25%, 2.25% and 2.75%. They are slightly higher than inflation.
- Workers will not pay a higher percentage of health care.
- The Company will add a health savings account for workers
- "Article 14," which restricts the Company's use of non-union contractors, will remain.
- The company will continue to pay "double time" for working hours beyond 49 hours per week.
- AT&T will add 1% to employee pension over each of the next five years.
- The company will not expand the scope of work for management technicians.
- Workers who need boots for work will get a bigger subsidy to buy them.
Union officials said the company also agreed to improve the provisions for short-term disability.
The previous four-year contract with AT&T expired on August 3. But there was little idea that a strike was likely as negotiations continued. Then, on August 23, a unanimous statement came from the union: Workers all over the South East went out at midnight.
Some local unions in Florida had gone out before the strike because of local issues, but they did not elicit the larger strike, union officials said.
The strike mainly involved technicians and customer service representatives. About 4,000 of the strikers were in Georgia.
Over the next few days, union members hit the bar, while negotiators met in sessions that the union described as "intense." On Tuesday, the union said that an agreement looked possible, and early Wednesday came the announcement of the new agreement.
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