More than 45,000 workers at US telecoms giant Verizon have gone out on strike after the unions walked away from contract negotiations.
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) trade union announced the move yesterday, saying that since negotiations began on 22 June, Verizon had "refused to move from a long list of concession demands".
Nearly 100 demands remain on the table, prompting the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, to take what they called an "unprecedented" step of striking until Verizon starts "bargaining seriously". Verizon said it had attempted to reach a "constructive new contract" with the two unions, but added that it had also put a back-up plan in place to make sure there would not be too much of a disruption to its customers.
The group said it had trained up management, retirees and others to fill in the responsibilities. Marc Reed, executive vice-president of human resources at Verizon, said it was "regrettable" that the unions had "decided to walk away from the table instead of continuing to work through the issues".
The CWA hit back, saying: "Even at the 11th hour, as contracts were set to expire, Verizon continued to seek to strip away 50 years of collective bargaining gains for middle-class workers and their families."
The company said the strike would not affect Verizon Wireless, the US mobile joint venture with Vodafone, which announced earlier this month that it would resume dividend payments for the first time in six years with a payment of $10bn (£6.1bn). Mr Reed continued: "We will continue to do our part to reach a new contract that reflects today's economic realities in our wireline business and addresses the needs of all parties.
"It is also our intent that under a new contract, Verizon employees will continue to receive competitive pay and benefits programmes."
The CWA pointed out that Verizon's annualised revenues for this year are $108bn with profits of $6bn. and the company's top five executives receivedtotal compensation of $258m over the past four years. The union's statment added that workers would return when management got serious, otherwise they "will continue the fight".