RealTime IT News

The Aftermath of the Verizon Strike

As union members from Verizon Communications trickle back into work after a 17-day strike, a backlog of more than 250,000 work orders waits to be completed.

That could mean a long wait for competitive local exchange carriers and Internet service providers from Maine to Virginia who depend on Verizon for telephone, dial up and digital subscriber line services.

A communication to DSL.net Inc., a New Haven, CT, DSL provider last week explained Verizon's policy during the strike, which affected 2.5 million customers:

"Our work stoppage guidelines are that no orders for local service that require field operations dispatches are to be provisioned to either wholesale or retail customers...Trouble reports are being handled in the most efficient way possible, without regard to whether the trouble affects a retail or wholesale customer."

Chris Parente, DSL.net director of corporate communications, said his company's hands were tied, for the most part, during the Verizon strike. All they could do, he said, was keep his customers informed of the progress.

"The result of this strike is that a lot of our customers have a long wait for DSL service," Parente said. "The Verizon POPs account for 35 to 40 percent of our business, since the Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier is the one who has to provision our lines. During the strike, all we could do was keep our customers up-to-date as to what was happening."

Parente doesn't know when DSL lines his company ordered will be fulfilled, and hasn't been contacted by Verizon officials since the strike began.

Although the strike ended last weekend for union members from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the New York and New England chapters of the Communications Workers of America, nearly 36,000 members of the mid-Atlantic chapter of CWA held out until Wednesday night. A contract clause gives employees 72 hours to return to work.

Paul Miller, Verizon spokesman, said many of the workers came back to work the next day, but not all. As far as catching up with the backlog, it could mean weeks.

"We won't be back at 100 percent until Monday," Miller said. "Because of the 72-hour window, a lot of the employees from the mid-Atlantic region won't be back until Monday. Around 50 percent have shown up for work there and about 94 percent of the employees in the New England and New York area have returned to work.

"Verizon is going to great lengths to meet the backlog of orders and will deal with them on a first come, first served basis. It could take a while to catch up with the backlog, maybe three-four weeks," Miller continued. "So much will depend on the weather. A lot of the jobs are out in the field and bad weather will slow things down. The last thing we need right now is a hurricane."

Murphy's Law states that anything that could go wrong, will go wrong. Residents in Florida, Georgia and South and North Carolina have been wracked by bad weather all week, coming to grips with tropical storm Debby. But Miller and the Weather Channel both maintain that the storm front is moving south, out of Verizon territory.

Martha Sessums, Covad Communications Group vice president of corporate communications, said that while the strike didn't lose her company much money, the impact will be felt for weeks to come.

"As far as DSL line count, we haven't lost any money but we've had to deal with relocating our installers throughout the United States to work on DSL installations at other telephone companies in other parts of the country. As far as that's conc