DENVER - Qwest Communications International Inc. and negotiators for its largest union said Monday they tentatively agreed on a contract, avoiding a strike that could have disrupted both upcoming political conventions.
About a day after a previous contract expired, Denver-based Qwest came to terms on a three-year deal with the Communications Workers of America, which represents about 20,000 of its employees in 13 states.
Qwest also agreed with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents the company’s employees in Montana.
Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs said the proposed contract calls for a wage increase totaling 9 percent over three years, an increase to the base pay of sales staff and a 3 percent increase in pension payouts.
He said it also includes a “modest” monthly premium for health coverage, where before employees paid only enrollment fees. He said employees would now get a choice of two health plans, where before only one was available.
“We’re pleased with the agreement,” Toevs said. “We think it’s good for the employees and good for the company.”
Union officials said the contract offer met their main objectives.
“We didn’t get everything we wanted,” CWA District 7 President Louise Caddell said. “But we achieved the best settlement possible in light of Qwest’s struggle to regain its financial health.”
CWA organizing coordinator Al Kogler estimated it would be at least two or three weeks before the contract is put to a ratification vote.
CWA members had voted to authorize a strike, but none was called when the contract expired after 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
The agreements come a little more than a week before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where Qwest is providing phone and Internet services.
Qwest is also providing service to the Republican National Convention, which begins Sept. 1 in St. Paul, Minn.
Kogler said no disruptions were expected for the conventions.
Qwest shares fell 9 cents to $3.83 Monday. They have traded in a 52-week range of $3.39 to $9.58.