Verizon customers see outages as worker strike continues

About 45,000 Verizon Communications workers are on strike because the company and two unions are at odds over a contract to replace one that expired this month. The company, facing a decline in its land line business, is seeking changes in work rules and benefits. Workers say that concessions are unnecessary and that profits remain healthy. Verizon, the second largest U.S. phone company.

As negotiations over a strike by 45,000 Verizon workers continued to sour, several thousand Washington-area customers experienced service outages caused by what the company called acts of sabotage.

Verizon reported 28 incidents of cut cables and damaged terminals in the District and Maryland since the strike began Sunday, out of more than 100 similiar incidents along the East Coast. Most of the vandalism has taken place in New Jersey and New York, Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell said Friday.

Employees who work on the company’s wireline systems and in its call centers — about a third of the workforce — went on strike when their contract expired Sunday. Negotiations over a new labor agreement bogged down over disagreements about pensions and health-care benefits.

Aaron Dom, the area manager for Maryland and the District, said there has been a marked rise in serious vandalism on the company’s systems since the strike began.

“Normally, in a year’s time we’d see maybe six acts of sabotage,” he said, adding that of the 28 incidents of damage, 18 took place in the District and 10 in Maryland.

Vandals in the region appear to be cutting fiber-optic and copper lines as well as going after the large, square terminals on street corners, in what appear to be attempts to damage more of the system at a time, Dom said.

Verizon is offering up to $50,000 to anyone who can identify the vandals.

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