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Verizon, 2 unions back to bargaining

| Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011

Bargaining resumed on Wednesday in Philadelphia and New York between Verizon Communications Inc. and the two unions representing 45,000 operators, technicians and customer service agents who have been on strike since early Sunday.

The two sides are far apart, and it's not likely that a settlement will be reached soon, said union officials from both the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communication Workers of America.

A Verizon spokesman declined to characterize the progress of the negotiations, but earlier reports that a tentative agreement had been reached were wrong, company and union officials agreed.

These are the first "official" talks since the strike began, although there had been some back-and-forth aimed at restarting the talks.

An Allegheny County judge ordered union members to refrain from blocking entrances or otherwise interfering with Verizon's business while they conduct their strike. The order is a copy of one the company and the CWA worked out on Monday in a Berks County case, according to court documents.

Verizon filed a petition on Tuesday asking Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Michael McCarthy to issue the same order. The company's petition says the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office said it needed a locally issued order before deputies could enforce the terms of the agreement.

McCarthy signed the order on Tuesday, according to court records.

Union members in nine states, including hundreds in the Pittsburgh area, hit picket lines on Sunday as talks on a new labor pact stalled. The union members work in Verizon's traditional "wire line" business and not its wireless operations, a company spokesman said.

The order also prohibits pickets from engaging in violence or vandalism, limits the number of pickets to six at any Verizon entrance and prohibits them from entering a Verizon business unless they do so as part of their jobs.

The order requires the union to post a $25,000 bond to guarantee compliance. Either side can file a notice seeking to cancel the order or change its conditions, according to court documents.

A Verizon spokesman said more than 600 pickets gathered yesterday morning at the Verizon building at 416 Seventh Ave., Downtown, because of a rumor that CEO Lowell McAdam would talk to strikers.

Yesterday afternoon, protesters blocked the exit to the parking lot of a Verizon building on Pioneer Avenue in Dormont for a short time. Dormont police Sgt. Michael Bisignani said the protesters placed their own padlocks on a security chain across the exit. Firefighters were called to cut off the locks.

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