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CenturyLink reaches deal with union, avoids strike in Idaho, western states

CenturyLink and its largest union have announced a deal that could avoid a strike of 11,000 workers in 13 mostly western states, which threatened to disrupt phone and Internet service for millions of consumers.

The proposed agreement reached July 30 offers lump-sum increases and wage increases. It also provides new limitations on CenturyLink’s ability to transfer jobs to offshore call centers.

Workers had previously authorized a strike.

“We’re pleased to get an agreement after nearly a year of bargaining,’’ said Al Kogler, spokesman for the Communications Workers of America.

“CenturyLink and the CWA are pleased that we have come to an agreement that provides our employees fair and equitable benefits and will better enable us to deliver on our mutual commitment to serve our customers,’’ said Glen Post, CenturyLink CEO, in a statement.

The proposed agreement provides new limitations on CenturyLink’s ability to contract out and move call center work outside its service area, and includes a commitment to return jobs that have been outsourced and offshored, the Denver Post reported July 31.

CenturyLink says it is a four-year agreement that covers wages, pension and health care benefits. The Communications Workers of America sought a five-year deal.

Workers will now vote on whether to accept it.

It’s the first time CenturyLink has negotiated with the union since it acquired Denver-based Qwest in 2011 in a deal that turned it into the nation’s third-largest telephone company.

The employees covered by the contract include customer service agents, network technicians and Internet support workers in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, New Mexico, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Negotiations started on Aug. 15, 2012, and, in October, 88 percent of the workers voted to authorize a strike.

About 100 CenturyLink workers in Montana are represented by another union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. They were not involved in the CenturyLink negotiations, although Kogler said they have previously signed contracts similar to ones that CenturyLink reached with Qwest.

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