CenturyLink Workers’ Year-Long Labor Dispute Ends

CenturyLink Workers’ Year-Long Labor Dispute Ends

CenturyLink and union officials said that they have reached a contract deal, which was ratified by union members and concludes more than a year of negotiations.

A drawn-out labor dispute involving roughly 1,800 former Qwest Communications workers in Minnesota has reached a conclusion that averts the possibility of a strike or lockout.

In October 2012, a four-year contract covering about 13,000 former Qwest employees nationwide expired. The workers became employees of Monroe, Louisiana-based CenturyLink in 2011, when CenturyLink merged with Qwest. In addition to the former Qwest workers in Minnesota, the contract covered employees in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa.

Last year, when the Communications Workers of America union was unable to reach a compromise with CenturyLink, the union authorized a strike. The strike, however, was averted, at least temporarily, when the two parties agreed to an extension of the former contract.

In July, it looked like a conclusion to the dispute was finally in sight, as the union’s negotiating team struck a tentative deal with the company. Soon after, however, union members rejected that proposal.

After returning to the negotiating table, the parties earlier this month reached a new tentative agreement, which was brought before union members for a vote. And union and company officials both said late last week that the deal was ratified.

Throughout the contract negotiations, the union had described as a key sticking point rising health care costs. It had also taken aim at CenturyLink’s outsourcing of jobs to the Philippines and other locations.

The union said that the new contract deal “provides lump sum payments and wage increases and runs through 2017.”

The contract “also provides new limitations on CenturyLink’s ability to contract out and move call center work outside the footprint, and includes a commitment to return jobs that have been outsourced and off-shored,” the union said.

CenturyLink spokesman Mark Molzen, meanwhile, said in an e-mailed statement that the parties involved are “pleased that we have ratified our contracts.”

“Our focus is, and continues to be, serving our business and residential customers by meeting and exceeding their needs as a broadband provider of choice,” Molzen added.