Verizon Communications laid off about 200 technicians in Massachusetts and Rhode Island today as part of a company-wide effort to cut its workforce by 8,000 workers nationwide.
But officials of the union that represents those employees plan to challenge the layoffs, saying they violate the terms of its contract with Verizon.
"There's plenty of work for these guys, but they chose not to make it available," said Myles Calvey, business manager for Local 2222 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Boston.
Calvey said the union's contract requires Verizon to avoid layoffs by giving jobs performed by outside contractors to union workers who would otherwise be cut, and claimed that Verizon has refused to do so. The union wants an independent arbitrator to settle the matter, according to Calvey. "We're fairly confident that an arbitrator will give us some work back," he said.
Verizon spokesman Phil Santoro denied that his company had violated the union pact. "All of the job reductions are done in accordance with the contracts with union employees," he said.
The union said it was able to strike a bargain with Verizon that prevented a planned layoff of an additional 62 workers.
Verizon began the year with about 235,000 workers nationwide, including 13,000 in Massachusetts and 3,000 in Rhode Island. In July, the company said it would reduce its payroll by 8,000 workers due to falling demand for traditional, landline telephone service.
Verizon's Santoro said that most of the cuts have come from early retirements and attrition, and that only a small number of workers nationwide have been laid off.
Eric Hetrick, business manager of IBEW Local 2322 in Middleborough, said that the great majority of the laid-off workers are technicians who carry out home installations of Verizon's FIOS network. Verizon is aggressively promoting FIOS, which delivers high-definition TV and high-speed Internet access as well as telephone service. Hetrick said that the FIOS technicians had plenty of work to do, but that they were laid off because they had less seniority than other union members.
One such technician, Dan Manning, just lost his job at a Verizon facility in Medway. Manning has a two-year-old child and a baby due in late January, and worries that his company-funded health insurance will expire just as the new baby arrives.
“We had great benefits, due to union negotiations," said Manning. "Now we’re losing all that and we're going to go out into an economy where there’s no work.”