AT&T faces an 4 April deadline to negotiate a new labour contract or it will run the risk of a massive strike, the Communication Workers of America said this week.
During a recent vote on whether to support going on strike if the union and AT&T couldn't reach a new labour agreement, roughly 88% of the AT&T members present voted to support the strike, the CWA said.
The contract for the vast majority of AT&T employees represented by the CWA is due to expire on 4 April, while the contract for CWA members working for AT&T Southeast will expire on August 6. In all the CWA represents roughly 125,000 workers at AT&T.
The major sticking point in the labour negotiations is healthcare, as the union strongly opposes any company proposals that would save money on healthcare by shifting more costs onto workers. AT&T so far has sought to downplay the union's strike authorisation, as spokesman Walt Sharp told the Associated Press that the authorization was "expected and routine at this stage of the negotiations."
The CWA and Verizon engaged in a similar dispute when they were negotiating a new labour deal last year, as Verizon wanted to end its practice of fully paying for its employees' healthcare premiums.
The two sides eventually reached a compromise whereby the company would continue fully paying healthcare premiums for all active and retired employees while also mandating that future employees will "have a defined contribution formula" for their post-employment healthcare benefits.