Company Pulls in Record Profits, While Squeezing Workers, Consumers
Verizon’s announcement of more than 600 layoffs in New England and New Jersey is a blow to both working families and to reliable high-speed Internet service for thousands of consumers, say International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers activists.
“Verizon’s executives have pulled in almost $350 million in the last five years,” says East Windsor, N.J., IBEW Local 827 Business Manager Bill Huber, who represents approximately 5,000 Verizon employees throughout New Jersey. “For them to be slashing jobs and cutting needed services in these tough economic times is unacceptable.”
The company made the announcement May 30. New Jersey will lose 382 wireline technician positions, while the New England area is slated to lose 306. The proposed layoffs could go into effect as early as September.
The cutbacks threaten not only basic upkeep and improvement of the company’s wireline service, but future build-out of Verizon FiOS – the only all-fiber optic commercial network in America – putting needed investment in high-speed broadband at risk, says Boston IBEW Local 2222 Business Manager Myles Calvey.
“FiOS jobs are wireline jobs and by cutting its existing work force, Verizon is putting big paydays for its top executives above building a world-class telecommunications infrastructure,” says Calvey, who represents more than 6,800 Verizon employees in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“Complaints from consumers are on the rise,” said Huber in testimony before the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. Verizon’s failure to properly service and maintain its copper landline infrastructure and to live up to its commitment to bring FiOS service to communities across New Jersey prompted official hearings into the complaints.
“IBEW Local 827 is taking the lead in bringing these consumer complaints to the attention of the utility board and taxpayers are glad someone is looking out for their interests,” says Huber. “We stand ready to complete the FiOS fiber-optic network that Verizon promised to deliver.”
Negotiations between the telecommunications giant and the IBEW and CWA on a new contract remain deadlocked, with Verizon putting the same package of givebacks on the table, including eliminating the company’s pension plan, giving management more leeway to outsource jobs and dramatically increasing health care premiums and deductibles.
As a result, more than 45,000 workers from New England to Virginia struck for nearly two weeks last August to protest the company’s draconian cutback demands.
At the same time Verizon is cutting its work force, the company’s wireless division continues to lobby for its proposed monopoly with Comcast and Time Warner – a deal which would end competition, raise prices and discontinue the development of a high-speed Internet infrastructure.
In January, Verizon Wireless announced plans to purchase $3.6 billion worth of spectrum from a consortium of top cable providers including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox. If approved by the Federal Communications Commission, the telecommunications giant would begin offering “quad” play – combined video, Internet, voice, and wireless service.
“It will give Big Cable an unfair advantage in the marketplace, which means higher rates and fewer options for consumers, while stranding many communities with a 20th century telecommunications system,” says Huber. “If this deal goes through, it’s the end of genuine competition.”
“Verizon continues to prioritize short-term profits above playing fair with workers and customers,” says Calvey.
About IBEW: Founded in 1891, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers represents approximately 725,000 members primarily in the United States and Canada who work in a wide variety of fields, including telecommunications, construction, utilities, broadcasting, manufacturing, railroads and government.
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