WASHINGTON (AP) — Verizon and union officials representing about 39,000 striking landline and cable workers in nine eastern states and Washington, D.C., agreed to restart negotiations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said he met with both sides on Sunday in Washington, D.C.
"The parties had an open, frank and constructive dialogue about finding a comprehensive way forward to resolve disputed issues and get people back to work," Perez said.
The two striking unions, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, represent installers, customer service employees, repairmen and other service workers in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., for Verizon's wireline business, which provides fixed-line phone services and FiOS Internet service.
Workers walked off the job on April 13. They had been working without a contract since August.
The unions have said they're striking because Verizon wants to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier and rely more on contract workers.
The telecom giant has said there are health care issues that need to be addressed for both retirees and workers as medical costs have grown.
Both sides agreed to return to the bargaining table on Tuesday to continue their discussions.
Perez said he's "heartened" by the parties' commitment to getting back to work on a new contract.
"I was singularly impressed by the parties' appreciation that time is of the essence, and their strong commitment to use the collective bargaining process to reach a mutually beneficial resolution," Perez said.
Some 45,000 Verizon workers went on strike for about two weeks in August 2011.
Verizon Communications Inc. has a total workforce of more than 177,000 employees.
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