Telecommunications strike possible

CenturyLink, union in dispute

A contract between union workers and Denver-based telecommunications company CenturyLink is set to expire late Saturday night, and the prospect of a strike by workers is on the table if a deal can’t be worked out before the deadline.

CenturyLink, which purchased Qwest Communications in April 2011, offers land line telephone service and DSL broadband connectivity, among other telecommunications services, to customers across a wide swath of the region, including western Colorado. A strike could impact thousands of Grand Valley residents who rely on CenturyLink for phone and Internet service.

The Communications Workers of America — whose Local 7743 unit includes 112 members who work for the Legacy Qwest company within CenturyLink — voted earlier this week to authorize a strike, should the union’s negotiating team choose to call for one in the event a deal cannot be reached.

According to a CWA spokesman, a strike is one of many options on the table. The sides could agree to extend the negotiations. The union could choose to work without a contract. The company could lock workers out. Or the union could authorize a strike, based on this week’s membership vote.

“Typically our policy is as long as progress is being made at the bargaining table, we’re not going to call a strike,” said Al Kogler, CWA District 7 media spokesman.

CWA members locally perform a host of jobs to deliver CenturyLink phone and Internet service, Kogler said, and a strike could have an impact on service, if it came to that.

Grand Junction is the home of an account center, where service reps make and field customer calls regarding billing and other issues.

Union members also include network technicians, who visit homes to perform installations and repairs, as well as others behind the scenes who do network maintenance or work in critical central offices.

While Kogler said he was “optimistic” about coming to an agreement that would not interrupt service, “if 13,000 people don’t show up for work, that’s going to leave a hole,” he said regarding a possible strike.

According to reports, a similar strike vote was authorized in contract negotiations in 2008, but a work stoppage was never called for.

The Qwest contract that CWA workers have been operating under expires at 11:55 p.m. Saturday. Negotiations between the union and CenturyLink are ongoing, Kogler said.


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