Qwest, CenturyLink Garner Union Support for Merger

Qwest and CenturyLink have received support from two major unions, marking the next step toward completing their proposed transaction.

CenturyLink, Inc., announced Friday that two unions-the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers-have agreed that its proposed purchase of Qwest Communications International, Inc., is in the public's interest.

The two major telecommunications industry unions agreed to “withdraw all opposition in any remaining state and federal regulatory proceedings” regarding the pending sale.

Qwest, CenturyLink, and the unions agreed to honor all existing collective bargaining agreements. They will also work together on employment levels, call center stability, investments in broadband, and employee health care benefits, among other issues.

“CenturyLink values our positive relationships with our employees and unions,” Glen Post, CEO and president of CenturyLink, said in a statement. “We rely on each and every employee to deliver an exceptional communications experience to our customers, and we will continue to work toward meeting their evolving communications needs.”

Denver-based Qwest-which employs more than 3,300 in Minnesota-announced in April that it had agreed to be sold to CenturyLink in a stock swap worth approximately $10.6 billion.

Although shareholders from both companies approved the sale in August, some of the companies' competitors have voiced concern about the proposed merger.

Portland, Oregon-based Integra Telecom, Inc.-one of the rivals that has expressed concerns about the sale-recently announced that more than 50 businesses and government agencies have sought to intervene in the transaction.

Many smaller competitors rely on Qwest's systems by sharing portions of the company's phone network and accessing services at a wholesale price. Some of the businesses that interconnect their networks with Qwest's claim that they will be undermined if the merger is approved without safeguards being put in place to ensure that disruptions don't occur during and after the acquisition.

Qwest and CenturyLink announced last month that they had received approval for the merger in nine states, as well as antitrust clearance from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. The companies said that they are awaiting approval from 12 remaining states, as well as the Federal Communications Commission.

The companies expect the transaction to be completed during the first half of 2011. The merged company will be based in CenturyLink's current home in Monroe, Louisiana-but it will maintain significant operations in Denver. The two companies together currently employ about 49,000 people across the United States. Qwest is reported to be the nation's third-largest phone company-and CenturyLink is the country's fifth-largest.