AT&T's workers have claimed a decisive victory in a company-wide dispute over wages, the company's outsourcing of jobs, and benefits packages, which started near the beginning of the year. That's according to a new press release from Communications Workers of America (CWA) – the union which represented 21,000 wireless workers at AT&T across 36 states and DC. The agreement reached is said to go above and beyond the concessions offered by the service provider in November and CWA expects its victory to act as a bulwark against industry outsourcing and offshoring in the future. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen, as worker disputes are hardly uncommon in the industry. However, the agreement is reported to include guaranteed call center work, a 10.1-percent pay increase over the next four years, and new job security protections.
As to what the new agreement entails, CWA says that it guarantees an 80-percent increase in the number of service calls handled by wireless workers who are members of CWA. Moreover, it is said to promise a new job for workers if the call center they work at is closed or if their job title is eliminated. Furthermore, $2,500 will be shifted from commission to base pay for no fewer than 14,000 workers at retail locations in order to generate stability in those workers' paychecks. According to the press release, that should result in wages of around $19.20 per hour for the average retail worker at AT&T. Those retail and call center workers will also see limitations on the types of monitoring and surveillance conducted over them, which CWA says will lead to more "fair and equitable" worker evaluations. Meanwhile, the cost of health insurance for employees covered by the agreement will now be "flat" in terms of cost-sharing, to save those workers out-of-pocket expenses for health care. That ties directly into the agreement's addition of language intended to allow for the use of sick days more freely, without workers needing to worry about disciplinary action in response. Finally, on-call employees at AT&T, such as technicians, will receive an increase in pay for work conducted while on-call and warehouse-based employees will be granted new safety equipment.
The new agreement should bring respite in tensions between workers and the company which had – following AT&T's decision to effectively ignore terms put forward by CWA and the workers – resulted in nationwide rallies and protests. Eventually, that culminated in the largest strike in U.S. history, which lasted for three days and resulted in the closure of hundreds of AT&T retail locations. With those disruptions now behind it, AT&T should be able to return to operating from a more stable position.