Qwest and Workers of America finally agreed

Qwest Communications International Inc., the No. 4 U.S. local-telephone carrier, averted a labor walkout last night by tentatively agreeing on a new contract with a union representing 25,000 employees.

After eight weeks of negotiations, Qwest and the Communications Workers of America agreed to a contract that may be ratified by workers within several weeks, union spokeswoman Candice Johnson said in a telephone interview from Washington last night.

The three-year agreement includes a 7.5 percent wage increase over the term and the continuation of an eight-hour limit on mandatory overtime per week, Johnson said.

“It's a positive agreement for the workers,” said Johnson, who added that employees will vote on ratifying the agreement within several weeks. “It's an acknowledgement by the company that the workforce is critical to the success of Qwest,” he was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

Workers will have one annual deductible for medical expenses compared with the old agreement where they paid individual charges for emergency room visits or lab work, Johnson said. Families of Qwest employees will now also pay a yearly health-care insurance enrollment fee, which they didn't have to pay in the past.

Retired workers will still have their employer-paid health care, with some changes to retiree life insurance coverage, the CWA said.

The union represents Qwest workers in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, Reuters informs.

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