By Thomas Gryta
Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) is planning to eliminate 1,700 jobs in its wireline unit in 12 states and Washington, D.C., by offering voluntary buyout packages.
The cuts come as the New York-based communications heavyweight is trying to reach a new contract with the union that oversees many of its employees. The company is in ongoing negotiations with about 45,000 wireline union workers who went on a two-week strike last year to protest the deep concessions Verizon is seeking in a new multiyear contract.
In a reflection of the tension between management and labor, the sides differed Monday on how to interpret Verizon's move.
Local unions criticized Verizon's action to cut 382 wireline technician positions in New Jersey and 306 in New England, calling it "a blow to both working families and to reliable high-speed Internet service for thousands of consumers." The unions said the reduction would both threaten network maintenance and the building of the FIOS high-speed network.
Verizon said the union's assertions were "nonsense" and the reductions wouldn't effect its network or growth plans. The company will encourage workers to take the buyout offer, but Verizon spokesman Richard Young conceded that layoffs were "a tool of last resort" if certain targets aren't met.
"These are not layoffs," Young said. "It is inaccurate to say that."
The company declined to break down the regional reduction targets beyond the 1,700 total.
Young said the work force is being adjusted to meet the needs of the business. He couldn't provide a timeline for the process, but said that it would be "several months" before reaching potential layoffs.
Shares of Verizon recently traded up 15 cents to $41.18.
Write to Thomas Gryta at firstname.lastname@example.org