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Unions: Requesting Federal Mediation in Verizon Contract Talks

By Thomas Gryta Two labor unions representing about 45,000 workers from Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) have requested federal mediation in their ongoing negotiations with the telecom company. The groups have been in negotiations for almost a year. The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers represent workers in Verizon's wireline division from New England to Virginia. In a statement, the unions said "Verizon management continues to insist on drastic cuts in benefits and employment security." The unions said they filed their request with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. A Verizon spokesman declined to comment on the request. Earlier Thursday, Verizon's Chief financial Officer Fran Shammo said on a conference call that the company is "standing strong on our position of cost restructuring in this business. The negotiations are continuing albeit slow, and the process will take as long as it takes for us." He stressed that the wireline business has had declining profitability and that Verizon knew it was facing "extremely difficult and very hard negotiations and it was going to be a long haul not a short haul." In general, the telecom carriers have seen their wireline businesses deteriorate as consumers depend more heavily on mobile devices and switch off their traditional land-based home phones. AT&T (T) is also in the midst of contract negotiations with more than 40,000 wireline workers. On Thursday, Verizon reported a 3.1% drop in wireline revenue for the second quarter. -Write to Thomas Gryta at thomas.gryta@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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