Below is a copy of the rebuttal email we sent to members regarding the email the company sent out that was full of half true information and blatant distortion of the facts. The unions response is in red.
After meeting in good faith with the Union and trying to work through issues for more than three weeks over the last few months, we have been unable to reach an agreement for a new contract. At the conclusion of our bargaining session last Friday, the Company provided the union bargaining committee with a contract settlement offer that reflects terms we believe are fair to you and your coworkers.
We have asked that the Union take the offer out to you for consideration and a vote. The Union indicated that they did intend to discuss our offer with the union members in Winter Park this week, but they made no commitment to allow a contract ratification vote to occur. The Union did request that the contract be extended until May 10 to allow time for more discussion and consideration. We agreed to that extension in the hope that the discussions with you would yield positive results.
The company was notified more than once during the week of bargaining before this letter went out that we intended to hold a meeting with all Winter Park employees to get their opinions of what was being offered. The company was notified at the negotiation table several times prior to and the same day this message was sent out that we had already scheduled a meeting for that same night. As for taking the contract out for a vote of the membership, this is only done AFTER both parties have agreed to a tentative agreement, which a TA has yet to be reached. Instead, the company has been trying to COMPEL the union to get the membership to vote on the contract as presented by the company WITHOUT a TA reached.
While we are encouraged that the Union plans to share the offer with those employees that are dues-paying members, I believe it is important to share with all of you some of the key issues we have discussed and our reasons for these changes to give you a better understanding of the Company’s rationale.
CenturyLink continues to face significant challenges in our consumer business. We are losing access lines to competitors and wireless replacement, despite the hard work of you and your co-workers. We must continue to focus on operating the business in the most efficient and effective manner possible so that we can grow and ultimately help protect our jobs.
At the point of implementation of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, CenturyLink profited $1.8 Billion dollars in income from the tax cut in 2018. In 2018, CenturyLink had revenues of $23.4 billion and earnings (before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) of $9 billion with capital expenditures of $3.2 billion. Each worker generated on average $520,955 of revenues. As technicians, we all understand that our access lines loss is caused by many things, such as competitors, but we also know that the companies draconian cuts in local jobs (manpower) and funds to repair or improve the local network to offer more services has continued to encourage our customers to seek service elsewhere.
Despite our challenges we still believe that it is very important to offer competitive wages and benefits to all of our employees. Therefore, the Company has offered annual wage increases of 1.5% each year as part of its settlement offer. This wage offer is consistent with wage increases that we have negotiated for other union-represented employees across the Company over the last couple years and we believe is very competitive and fair.
Competitive and fair is up to interpretation when over the past couple of years, the average wage increase for unionized workers per year has been 2.5%. Based on the information we have received from the company non-bargaining counterparts have received on average a 3% pay increase per year while Winter Park employees have only received one pay increase in the last 3 years. It’s appalling that the company continues to nickel and dime it’s hourly employees on their wages but continually increase our CEO pay with no issues. In 2018, according to the Summary Compensation Table in this year’s CenturyLink proxy statement, Mr. Storey received total compensation of $ 35,655,646. Note that Mr. Storey started as CEO on May 23, 2018. Until that date, the CEO was Glenn F. Post, III. He received compensation of $10,744,214 in 2018, according to the Summary Compensation Table. Currently, Mr. Storey pay ratio is 527 to 1.
Our proposed wage increases would make you and your coworkers the highest paid CenturyLink union represented employees in the State of Florida.
Although it would be true in Florida for a short period, it is not true for technicians in the Southeast region. Areas in the Southeast that have a significantly lower cost of living have a higher wage than Winter Park. The company’s’ position on wages is that you are only worth a 1.5 % for each year of the contract as they stated many times that a lack of money is not an issue, but that they are unwilling to go any higher even though non-bargaining employees received a wage increase of 3% for just this year alone. The company’s wage proposal does not even meet the national inflation rate of the country, which is 2%, and after adding the increased cost of your company medical insurance, the employee makes no significant gains yet again they state the wage offer is “fair” and “competitive” to you.
Short-Term Disability (STD)/Worker’s Compensation:
The Company has proposed language that modifies the benefit payment amount for both STD and Worker’s Compensation for new employees hired into the unit after January 1, 2020, to 70% of their base pay. The amount of benefit available for both STD and Worker’s Compensation will continue to be 26 weeks. These proposed changes will not apply to you. The changes will only affect new employees hired into the unit after January of next year. These changes will align the benefit payment amounts to be consistent with the rest of the company and have been agreed upon by almost all of the other bargaining units within the Company for newly hired employees.
We have also proposed a change to the Worker’s Compensation benefit that requires an employee to have at least one year of service to be eligible for the supplemental company payment. This change is being proposed to align Worker’s Compensation pay rules with what already exists under Short-term Disability and to standardize the administration of the benefit since the program is managed by an outside vendor.
The proposed changes by the company for STD are to reduce the benefit amounts from an up-to 100% for 26 weeks based on years of service for new employees but they also want to deny workers compensation benefits for employees with less than 1 year of service, so if a new hire gets hurt on the job, they will only receive 66.3% of their base pay versus receiving a benefit of 85%.
The Company had also proposed that we reduce the payment on Scheduled Sunday from 1.5x pay to straight time. We are a service industry with heavy focus on the customer experience and we must be readily available when our customers want and need us. If we find that customers are requesting that we provide service to them on Sunday, we wanted to be able to address that need while ensuring that we run the business as efficiently as possible. After considerable discussion over this change we recognized the sensitivity of the subject and we did not include this change in our settlement offer.
The Union fought this issue hard and it wasn’t until we were able to prove that no other NON-BARGAINING customer service department (sales/NOHD/Assignments/provisioning/etc.) are not scheduled at the same time, it would not be economical for the company to have technicians at work. Also, whenever a non-union employee works on Sunday, they get a 12% differential. The company, during negotiations of this proposal, had zero interest in providing a differential payment as they felt to be “competitive” they had to pay the technicians straight time only.
The Company’s offer makes very few other changes to the existing contract. We did agree to provide several improvements to the contract, including increases to some of the differential payments covered under the contract, new language that provides you with a paid rest period after working more than 14 hours in a 24 hours period, and additional opportunity to be reimbursed for safety footwear costs. There were no other changes to the benefits that you currently have available and enjoy. If you have questions about the specific details of the offer, I would encourage you to ask your union representatives to share it with you.
The agreed upon contract improvements stated above were not proposed by the company at any time, but by the union. In fact, it was a struggle to get the company to come to terms on providing a rest period to its employees as they felt that if an employees safety was at risk due to sleep deprivation then the employee could go home by using their PTO to cover the shift. But, because the company has an attendance policy in place the company could issue occurrences and absences days on the employee’s record just for going home on short notice, even though they were working long durations at the request of the company, thus placing you in a catch 22.
I will keep you informed of our progress and ask that you remain focused on serving our customers.
We agree that serving our customers should be our daily focus, but it’s clear that today’s management of the company only views us as a red mark on their ledger versus a vital asset that should be invested in to improve its overall profitability. It’s been proven through many social and business marketing studies that when an employee knows they are an integral part of the business and that what they are worth is reciprocated, the employee works harder, increases production and profits for the business.