Verizon Strike Turns Ugly

by Matt Klassen on August 11, 2011

Now four days into the labour dispute between Verizon and its employees and talks have clearly reached an impasse…although the two parties can’t even seem to agree on that.

The company itself insists that the union has repudiated the entire bargaining process, refusing to talk about the issues that the company needs to have renegotiated; while the union counters with the argument that bargaining has yet to really begin, citing Verizon’s pushy strong arm tactics as the reason behind the breakdown in talks.

As I mentioned previously, labour disputes are complex and thorny issues of business ethics, perhaps on par with other taboo subjects like politics, sex, and religion, with people taking impassioned stands on both sides of the fence.

But as we try to wade through the anger, frustration, and even propaganda one thing is clear, it took all of one day for collaborative bargaining to be replaced by mud-slinging and accusations, the sort of talk that will no doubt serve to prolong the standoff and further drive a wedge between Verizon management and its frustrated staff.

It’s the sort of talk that makes me wonder if this dispute can ever really end, as I truthfully struggle to comprehend how either side can look the other in the face when a new contract is stuck and everyone returns to work; because the fact is, when this impasse does finally turn to bargaining, it looks like both sides will have to answer for their actions.

Let me say at the outset when discussing the accusations each side has levelled against the other over the last two days that I view them all with a sceptical eye, as both sides have their propaganda machines working overtime to try to garner support for their side. With that said, I truly hope that some of these stories are fabrications.

For its part, representatives of the union accused Verizon managers of injuring picketers, apparently while the managers drove their cars across the picket lines. The reps cited one particular example where a picketer was injured and subsequently taken to hospital after being struck in the head by a car’s side-view mirror.

There is also the ongoing complaint regarding scabs, the replacement work force that Verizon is still trying to assemble to assuage some of the pressure Verizon’s customer service department is experiencing after the strike. Of course, this anger and frustration towards these scabs has given Verizon fuel for its fire, as the company itself has complained that strikers have prevented these replacement workers from entering or leaving Verizon buildings.

But that seems like small potatoes compared to a more serious accusation that Verizon has now levelled against its employees, industrial sabotage. The communications company has stated that it has found evidence of sabotage, particularly vandalized equipment and purposely cut fiber optic cables. As one who supports the cause of the union as it fights to defend its contract, I truly hope these accusations are unfounded.

That said, with the union appealing to Congress for support and Verizon attempting to generate public support by placing responsibility for its lack of customer support squarely on the union’s shoulders, both sides are entrenched and this dispute could drag on longer than the 18 days Verizon endured over a decade ago during the last employee strike.

In the end, let me leave the union workers with a reminder wrought from the words of The Simpsons:

“They have the plant, but [you] have the power.”

Click here for the link to my original piece, Verizon Hires Scabs to Break Strike

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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