It took thirteen months since the last contract expired, but local 1298 of the Communications Workers of America has reached a 4-year deal with AT&T giving raises totaling nearly 11 percent to 3,200 wireline and customer service workers in Connecticut.
Money was less important than job security to many in the union, at a time when AT&T is reducing its wireline workforce because of the decline in landline phones. The contract, which must be ratified by members, extends some layoff protection to employees hired between 2004 and 2012. That is a guarantee of a job offer in Connecticut for workers whose jobs are eliminated, but it does not assure equal pay or a specific location within the state.
The pact is retroactive to April, 2012, and includes raises of 5 percent this year, 3 percent next year and 2.5 percent in 2015. Workers would get a $350 ratification bonus, improvements in the retirement plan and, the union said in a written statement, “minimized increases in employee contributions towards the cost of health care coverage.”
Health insurance costs were a major issue, as they are in virtually all union talks.
“Given the state of the economy and the direction of the telecommunications industry, this is the best possible contract for our members,” CWA Local 1298 president Bill Henderson said in the written release. “We fought hard and this agreement will protect our members at a time when Corporate America has labor gasping for every last breath.”
AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said Saturday the pact was the last of seven negotiated since early 2012 across the country between the telecom giant and CWA. He declined to say whether the 1298 contract is more favorable than others, saying, “they’re all pretty similar.”
“Our objective throughout the bargaining was to reach a fair agreement that would continue to allow us to provide excellent middle-class careers for our employees and we think this contract does that,” Richter said.
A CWA contract for a small number of AT&T wireless workers in Connecticut is separate; that bargaining unit was the first in the nation under AT&T’s wireless business.