AT&T says CWA calls for strike in East and West regions

Tue Aug 7, 2012 7:09pm IST

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(Reuters) - AT&T Inc (T.N) said workers in California, Nevada and Connecticut have begun strike action over labor contracts even as the company reached a tentative agreement covering nearly 22,000 workers in its South region.

AT&T said on Tuesday it was unfortunate that local union leaders had called for the strike after the company had reached agreements with the Communications Workers of America CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in other regions.

The telecom carrier said the deal, which still needed to be ratified by a union vote, would provide wage increases and "modest" pension increases over three years for employees in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

AT&T, whose total workforce is roughly 256,000, is looking to trim worker benefits to cut costs in its wireline business, which has declined rapidly in recent years.

But the union says AT&T is seeking too many concessions. In particular, it says that AT&T wants to significantly increase healthcare costs for workers.

The company said on Tuesday it was not planning to cut salaries or reduce benefits.

AT&T last month agreed to a one-year extension for a labor contract with the IBEW covering nearly 7,000 workers until June 22, 2013 without any changes to existing terms.

Last August, AT&T's rival, Verizon Communications (VZ.N), had to cope with a two-week strike after contracts expired for 45,000 workers.

(Reporting By Nicola Leske)