Specially trained non-union employees who will pick up the slack for Verizon's striking union employees throughout the Northeast, including New Jersey, will include employees who normally fill other duties at the Verizon Center in Basking Ridge, a company spokesman said Sunday night.
"We have deployed thousands of Verizon managers and others to Verizon work sites in New Jersey and other affected areas," Verizon spokesman Rich Young said Monday afternoon.
The company has trained thousands of non-union employees in multiple states, including a few thousand from New Jersey, to pick up the repair, maintenance, installation and other office functions of the striking employees, Young had said on Sunday night. "Some employees from the (Basking Ridge) facility will be engaged in our contingency plans," Young said.
Contract talks resume Monday
Meanwhile, Young said previously broken-off contract talks resumed Monday between Verizon management and the representatives for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) local 827, based in New Jersey, and IBEW locals and members of the Communications Workers of America from multiple states.
"We are in negotiations with them continually," Young said. "We are willing to negotiate with them as long as they are willing to come to the table with an open mind."
Young said he did not know if negotiations were underway at that moment, but he said talks were happening on Monday.
Bill Huber, president and business manager for the IBEW local 837 in New Jersey, could not be reached Monday at about 3 p.m.
On Sunday, Young said he could not say how many of the 3,000 or so corporate employees at Verizon's building off North Maple Avenue will be reassigned to fill in such other duties as network repairs and support, billing inquiries, customer service and other job duties normally picked up by 45,000 striking Verizon workers, including 5,400 in New Jersey.
Young said no negotiations had taken place on Sunday, after members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) local 827, other IBEW local and members of the Communications Workers of America had called a strike after midnight on Sunday morning.
A previous three-year contract with those unions—representing workers from New England south through Virginia and West Virginia—expired Saturday at 11:59 p.m.
Huber, the IBEW local 827 spokesman, last week and again on Sunday disputed that temporary training could adquately prepare management employees to fill in on the wire lines, particularly for Verizon's fiber-optic FiOS network.
"You can't train someone a few weeks to do the job, particularly FiOS," Huber said. Other services normally filled by trained union employees also require more skilled labor as well, he added.
"They don't have the experience, and they don't have the manpower," Huber said on Sunday of Verizon's fill-in employees. "The customers are going to leave in droves, and they are not going to get those customers back."
The striking union members are employees of Verizon employees, not contract workers, the union representatives, including Huber, had confirmed the previous Thursday.
"It's a major blunder for them, to get their employees on the street," Huber said after the strike was called.
Verizon customers with billing, service or other questions were told they can find assistance online.
On Sunday, Verizon's 5,400 wireline employees were on the picket line at multiple locations in New Jersey. As of Sunday morning, strikers were not along North Maple near the Basking Ridge Verizon Center, where they had demonstrated on Thursday night, but Huber said they might return at some later time.
Police Cars Along North Maple Avenue
There were no demonstrators or picketing union members early Monday afternoon along North Maple Avenue, but two police cars blocked the parking area across from Verizon where hundreds had reportedly gathered on Thursday.
Young said later Monday afternoon that he did not know why police were at the scene, other than they may have been expecting union representatives to return to the location along North Maple Avenue, a busy roadway.
Bernards Township police were not available for comment Monday afternoon.
Previously, Huber said the union wants the company to remain profitable, and that the wireline employees had built the basis for Verizon's current wireless profitability.
Huber said Verizon just announced record profits at the same time the company is trying to take away union workers' health benefits and other wage-related agreements from previous contracts.
Huber said the unions and the Verizon management were in disagreement on nearly all major issues, including working conditions. He accused the company's top management, including new CEO Lowell McAdam, of trying to break the unions following almost six decades of collective bargaining.
Currently, most union-represented employees pay nothing for health insurance premiums at Verizon, Verizon said in an online statement of its position on bargaining with the unions.
"The company is proposing that its union-represented employees pay a portion of their health care premiums, much like the majority of other Verizon employees," the site said.
Under a proposed new contract, Marc C. Reed, Verizon’s executive vice-president of human resources, said on Sunday morning, union "Verizon employees will continue to receive competitive pay and benefit programs.”
But Huber said on Sunday morning the proposal that Verizon had on the table asked for 100 giveback items, many regarding overtime pay and wages. Yet, he said, "We are not dealing with a corporation that's broke."