Verizon Communications has agreed to federal mediation in contract negotiations with unions governing 45,000 workers.
Mediation through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service is set to commence Wednesday morning at the agency's Washington, D.C. office, revealed FMCA.
Verizon last week initially rejected a request for mediation from the unions. The company has changed its mind though is saying very little at this time.
"As part of the joint arrangement with the FMCS, Verizon has agreed not to comment during the federal mediation process," Verizon spokesman Rich Young said Tuesday in an emailed statement.
New York-based Verizon is in contract negotiations with the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The unions collectively represent roughly 45,000 wireline workers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Workers last summer went on strike, then returned to their jobs despite failing to reach a new agreement on a contract that expired on Aug. 7, 2011.
Thanks to mediation, Verizon and the unions aren't expected to say much publicly.
"Because of the sensitivity of these negotiations, in keeping with our past custom and practice, and the agreement between the parties, the FMCS and the parties will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule and/or the status of talks among the parties until further notice," said Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen.
A federal mediator seeks to assist two sides in reaching an agreement in contract negotiations, but unlike a federal judge or arbitrator, mediation is not a binding process. Still, Verizon and the unions likely have a better chance of meeting somewhere in the middle after months of negotiations that have failed to yield an accord. John Arnold, a spokesman with FMCS, said last week that the agency helps parties reach a settlement in roughly 85 percent of the cases that it mediates.