Qwest Communications and a union representing 25,000 employees, including 3,000 in Washington state, reached a tentative contract agreement...

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Qwest Communications and a union representing 25,000 employees, including 3,000 in Washington state, reached a tentative contract agreement yesterday evening.

“Right now, from the outline, it looks very good,” said Brenda Roberts, the president of the CWA Local 7800, which represents 1,900 of the 3,000 employees in Washington state.

The Denver-based company and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) had been working without a contract since late Saturday.

Since then, negotiations intensified as union leaders were prepared to call for a strike at any time.

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The union and company had been in talks since June 22.

With a tentative agreement worked out, local union officers will fly to Qwest’s headquarters in Denver to discuss contract terms. Afterward, the membership will vote by mail. The process could take up to 45 days, Roberts said.

The three-year contract will include the first wage increases union employees have gotten in two years. Workers will get a 3 percent pay increase in the first year of the contract, followed by 3 ½ percent in the second year and 2 percent in the final year of the pact.

The contract also calls for passing along some rising health-care costs to employees, but not to retirees, as the union requested.

“Right now, looking at the laundry list of things we sent to the bargaining committee, they’ve come away having done a very good job,” Roberts said.

Another major issue resolved earlier in the negotiations involved mandatory overtime. The company wanted to double the mandatory extra hours in a workweek to 16; it agreed to keep it at 8 hours.

Qwest is the largest provider of phone service in Washington with more than 2.3 million customers.

In the last few years, the phone company has struggled as customers have shifted from traditional services to wireless and other new technologies. It also suffers from a high level of debt.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com