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Verizon braces for work stoppages as unions set strike deadline

The disputebetween Verizon Communications Inc.and labor unions has come to a boiling point with the latter setting a strike deadline.

The Communications Workers of America said April 11 that about40,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia will go on strike at 6 a.m.on April 13 if a fair agreement is not reached by then, while the telecom operatorsaid it is prepared to serve its customers in the event of a strike.

Accusing Verizon of "corporate greed," the union saidthat even though Verizon made $39 billion in profits over the last three years,the company wants to gut job security protections; contract out more work; offshorejobs to Mexico, the Philippines and other locations; and require technicians towork away from home for as long as two months without seeing their families.

CWA also alleged that Verizon is also refusing to negotiate anyimprovements in wages, benefits or working conditions for Verizon Wireless retailworkers. The union said that the negotiations, which beganin June 2015, while the workers' contract expired Aug. 1, 2015, were at a standstill"even as workers have offered hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcarecost savings."

In a statement the same day, Verizon accused union leaders ofmaking strike threats rather than constructively engaging at the bargaining table.

"We do not take strike threats lightly," said Bob Mudge,president of Verizon's wireline network operations. Mudge added that the companyhas trained thousands of non-union Verizon employees to carry out virtually everyjob function handled by the union represented workforce.

Verizon added that its proposal to wireline workers includesa 6.5% wage increase and structural changes to Verizon's legacy health care plans.Verizon said that the rising cost of health care is a concern to all companies,and in 2015, it spent more than $3.2 billion on health care for its employees andretirees, about 45% of which was for the employees and retirees from the unionsVerizon is now negotiating with.