About 40,000 AT&T (NYSE:T) wireline employees voted this week to authorize a walkout should contract talks with management falter.
Members of the Communications Workers of America have been facing off with the company over its push to increase the premiums workers pay for health-care coverage and copays, possible pension cuts, and cuts to other benefits. The company says employee medical costs rose 54% from 2004 to 2010.
With the current contract due to expire on April 7, progress on talks so far suggests AT&T could face a walkout similar to the two-week strike led by Verizon (NYSE:VZ) workers last summer.
“Everything leads me to believe that we’re in the same position today with AT&T that we were with Verizon last year,” Chuck Simpson, president of CWA Local 2204 in Salem, Va., told the Wall Street Journal. “Like so many companies, they want to shift more costs to the employees.”
AT&T, which carries Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and the new Lumia 900 from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Nokia (NYSE:NOK), says it has spent the past two years preparing for a walkout by training its managers and vendors to fill worker roles should there be a strike.
Increasing customer migration to mobile phones has been eroding AT&T’s wireline subscriber base. Operating income at the company’s wireline unit plunged 7.2% to $7.3 billion last year, and its operating revenue declined 2.5% to $59.8 billion, the Journal notes.