NYTimes.com Article: Verizon Is Told It Must Reinstate 2,300 Workers It Had Laid Off

ccarrico at nimbus.ocis.temple.edu ccarrico at nimbus.ocis.temple.edu
Sat Jul 12 13:55:23 MDT 2003

This article from NYTimes.com
has been sent to you by ccarrico at nimbus.temple.edu.

A ruling that a big U.S. corporation has to honor its contract with a labor union?  I'm astonished.

ccarrico at nimbus.temple.edu

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Verizon Is Told It Must Reinstate 2,300 Workers It Had Laid Off

July 12, 2003

An arbitrator has ruled that Verizon Communications
improperly laid off 2,300 workers in December and must
reinstate them, a decision that union officials hailed but
that company executives said underlined Verizon's need to
gain more flexibility in contract talks to cut costs.

In a 59-page ruling that the parties received yesterday,
the arbitrator, Shyam Das, concluded that Verizon violated
a job-security provision that said the company could not
lay off union workers unless an external event directly
reduced the need for employees.

Verizon had argued that the recession, fierce competition,
the telecommunications slump and the substitution of
wireless service for land-line service constituted such an
external event.

Mr. Das, who also serves as an arbitrator for baseball
players and owners, wrote that "this ongoing evolution in
the industry" did not "have the characteristics of a
discrete `external event' " that would allow for layoffs.

As a result, he said, the 2,300 workers, almost all of them
field technicians and operators in New York State, must be
reinstated with full back pay, minus severance payments or
other income they had received since December. Verizon's
main union, the Communications Workers of America, said it
would meet with the company on Tuesday to discuss a
schedule for reinstatement.

"It's a tremendous victory for the union and all the
employees and families," said Pamela Galpern, an
installation and repair worker in Manhattan who was laid
off in December after three years on the job. "These are
workers who want to work. Verizon needs them to provide
good service."

In a statement, Verizon said it was disappointed with the
arbitrator's decision and believed that it had followed the
contract. Employees in Massachusetts, New Jersey and
Pennsylvania have filed similar complaints with other

Because of the ruling, Verizon said it was imperative that
it gain increased flexibility to lay off and transfer
workers in current contract talks. The contract for 75,000
workers from two unions expires on Aug. 2.

"The decision does not change the need for the company to
address the challenges facing the business," Verizon said.
"The difficult business conditions facing the company - the
same conditions that caused the layoffs - all remain. The
company and unions will have to address job security issues
in the current bargaining to match them to the changing
telecommunications industry."

Eric Rabe, a Verizon spokesman, estimated that the company
owed $25 million in back pay. But Larry Mancino, the
communications workers' top official in the Northeast, said
the figure would top $100 million.

Saying the arbitrator's decision surprised him, Mr. Mancino
said, "It takes a real gutsy arbitrator to rule the way
this arbitrator ruled."

The union said, "This decision is also very good news for
consumers who deserve high-quality telecom services and for
shareholders who want their investment to grow through
growing the business and generating revenues - not just
slashing costs at the expense of service quality."

The contract bars Verizon from carrying out layoffs "as a
result of any company-initiated `process change,' " like
hiring outside contractors or closing offices.

The contract does allow layoffs in response to outside
events that significantly and directly reduce the need for
a large number of employees. These include the loss of a
big contract or a regulatory change that causes the company
to abandon a line of business.

Mr. Das wrote that "any belt-tightening in response to the
reduction in revenue was company-initiated process change."



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