IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - A possible strike by union workers at CenturyLink could have a major impact on eastern Idaho.
Communication workers in 13 states are fighting an increase in health care premiums. They also want CenturyLink, formerly Qwest Communications, to bring more jobs back to the U.S.
"It is not the union's intent to ever go on strike," said Communication Workers of America Local 7621 President Dirk Marsden. "Nobody wins in a strike. Our intent is to get a good, fair contract for working families in our area and the people we represent."
Marsden claims the union has issued no demands at this time. He said CenturyLink wants employees to pay up to 350% more for health care premiums than they are paying now.
In addition to increasing employee medical payments for both active and retired employees, Marsden said the company also proposes to change wages, raise caps on overtime, and reduce wages for new-hires.
The employees of the Monroe, La.-based company include customer service agents, network technicians and Internet support workers, The Associated Press reported nearly 90 percent of them voted to authorize a strike in October, 2012.
On February 13, 2013, the CWA executive board voted to give its bargaining team authority to call a strike.
If the strike does happen, there will likely be issues of understaffing, which means fewer technicians and fewer call center employees to handle customer service.
Negotiations between the company and the union are continuing.