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AT&T Reaches Tentative Deal with Wireline Employees

AT&T Inc.'s (T) Southeast business has reached a tentative agreement with the Communications Workers of America that includes yearly wage increases and small pension increases, bringing the number of its wireline employees covered by agreements to nearly 48,000. The carrier said it has reached tentative agreements with the CWA involving two other smaller Southeast regional groups covering AT&T billing Southeast as well as Southeast utility operations. All three agreements will be submitted to the union's membership for a ratification vote, and collectively cover more than 22,000 wireline employees in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In July, AT&T said it had reached agreements "in concept" with the Communications Workers of America in wireline contract negotiations for about 18,700 employees. Those negotiations concerned 13,000 AT&T Midwest region employees in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin and about 5,700 employees throughout the country in the AT&T communications and technologies unit. The contracts expired April 7, and the employees continued to work under terms of the old contracts. Earlier in July, AT&T reached a one-year extension agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union representing 7,000 wireline employees, after the workers rejected a similar pact the week before. The agreement extended the terms of the workers' contract, which had been in place for three years and expired last month, without modification until June 22, 2013. Tuesday, AT&T said wireline employees covered by the AT&T West and AT&T East contracts have initiated a strike. The contracts expired April 7. The West contract covers more than 17,000 wireline employees in California and Nevada, and the East contract covers more than 3,000 wireline employees in Connecticut. The company said in a statement that it "has been planning for more than two years to handle a work stoppage like this, and has a substantial contingency workforce of well-trained managers and vendors in place." In general, telecom carriers have seen their wireline businesses deteriorate as people depend more on mobile devices and switch off their traditional land-based home phones. Last month, AT&T said its second-quarter earnings rose 8.7% as a lower customer turnover rate helped to improve margins. Shares edged down 0.08% to $37.58 in recent trading. The stock is up 30% in the past 12 months. Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at saabira.chaudhuri@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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