Qwest, unions reach agreement to avert strike

A communications strike that could have affected both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, set to be held within the next two weeks, has been avoided.

An agreement, announced early this morning with both the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, covers over 20,000 union members across 13 states, and is set for a period of three years. Both new contracts now go to their respective union members for a vote.

"I appreciate the collaborative effort the bargaining teams made in confronting key issues facing employees and Qwest, especially health care," executive vice president and chief administrative officer Teresa Taylor said. "I'm confident Qwest will be a stronger company because of tonight's result."

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Qwest had been tapped as the communications provider for both the Democratic National Convention next week in Denver, followed by the Republican Convention in St. Paul September 1. Officials had feared a strike would disrupt the events, which unions had agreed would begin Sunday if a deal had no deal been reached.

Today's deal follows a similar deal Verizon struck with unions reached last week. As with these negotiations, health care was a major sticking point. Employees are demanding better coverage; however, at the same time, companies are seeing rising premiums, which puts a bigger financial strain on insuring workers.

Another focus of negotiations was to ensure future union jobs as well as increased wages. Job security is big to Qwest employees: The company recently cut a large portion of its workforce, and has cut down on the benefits it provides.

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