Arbitrator: Verizon Layoffs Out of Bounds

July 11, 2003 ( - An arbitrator has determined that last year's layoffs at Verizon Communications were inappropriate, adding more pressure on the company to talk with its union workers.

With the ruling, the arbitrator backed the Communications Workers of America’s claim that the company could not lay off workers for technological or business changes – instead only as a result of special conditions caused by “external events.” In Verizon’s case, the reason given for the 2,300 dismissed workers was ruled to not fall within those parameters, according to a Reuters report.

The decision means that union-represented workers who lost their jobs last December, and hundreds of others who were involuntarily transferred in that process, must be reinstated to their positions, the union said.

However, “it’s not the ruling the company thought was appropriate,” Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe said. “So we disagree with the interpretation of the contract.”

The ruling, and subsequent conflicting reinstatement demands, will only pressure the already strained relationship between the communications company and its unionized labor force. Last month Verizon began labor contract talks with unions representing more than a third of its workforce, with health care benefits, job security and wages among the most contentious issues. The unions also have said they would be unwilling to reach a contract settlement unless they won more flexibility to organize workers at the company’s wireless telephone affiliate.