AT&T facing possible wireline worker walkout

About 40,000 Communications Workers of America union employees of AT&T (NYSE: T) could hit the picket lines Sunday after voting this weekend to authorize a strike if no agreement on a new contract is reached.

At issue are health care costs, pension cuts and other benefit expenses that AT&T is looking to reduce. AT&T contends that medical costs for employees have risen 8 percent in 2010 and 54 percent since 2004.

While a strike authorization is no guarantee that a walkout will happen, the Verizon (NYSE: VZ) CWA walked off the job for two weeks in August. No contract agreement has been reached there.

"Everything leads me to believe that we're in the same position today with AT&T that we were with Verizon last year," said Chuck Simpson, president of CWA Local 2204 in Salem, Va. "Like so many companies, they want to shift more costs to the employees."

AT&T said it's prepared for a job action, planning to put managers and vendors into the voids left if the union walks out.

The CWA and AT&T are renegotiating four separate contracts, all of which expire at 12:01 a.m. on April 8.

Just more than half (about 55 percent) of AT&T workers are represented by CWA, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers or other unions, the company's annual report shows. Contracts covering approximately 120,000 employees will expire during 2012, the company said.

For more:
- see this WSJ article
- see this release

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