Qwest, union reach tentative agreement

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Phone company Qwest Communications International has reached a new, tentative agreement with a labour union over wages and healthcare issues, ending the possibility of a planned strike if talks had fallen through.

Qwest and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) reached the new four-year tentative agreement less than two weeks after a previous three-year tentative agreement was rejected, the company said in a statement on Saturday.

The new agreement includes a general wage increase of about 12.6% cumulative over the life of the contract, compared with a 9% rise that had been offered in the three-year agreement in August, Qwest said.

The new agreement calls for a $75 per month contribution for family coverage and a choice of plan designs, besides also including a 3% hike in pension for eligible individuals retiring after 12 October, this year, the company said.

The ratification vote on the new agreement, covering about 57% of Qwest's employees, is expected by the end of the month, the company said.

"This agreement is reasonable and fair in terms of wages and holding back the towering rise in healthcare expenses," Louise Caddell, VP of CWA District Seven said.

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