Two weeks ago, nearly 36,000 Verizon workers walked off the job. Now, Verizon is dealing with a wave of sabotage incidents and some are looking suspiciously at the striking workers. Some of the incidents have included the intentional damaging of Verizon equipment, the vandalism of terminal boxes, and the destruction of fiber-optic cables. Verizon said the criminal incidents have increased considerably since the strike began on April 13.
During the two weeks since the strike began, the number of incidents of suspected sabotage being investigated by Verizon has risen 100 percent. The company says that it is now investigating 57 instances of network sabotage and other criminal activity. In a normal year, the company has about six incidents reported.
Incidents have been reported in seven states. The incidents have cut off thousands of Verizon customers from critical wireline services. In Salisbury, MA, a terminal that provided 911 emergency services to local residents had its wires cut. In Hockessin, Delaware, three separate incidents occurred at fiber hub locations. In Pennsylvania, 10 incidents are under investigation, including a suspected arson. In New Jersey, there have been 17 incidents reported. Most of those incidents have occurred in the northern part of the state.
Verizon said it’s working with authorities to pursue criminal charges. The company is currently offering rewards of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible. Similar claims of sabotage were reported during a Verizon worker strike in 2011. That strike involved more than 45,000 employees.
The current Verizon strike involves mostly workers who belong to the Communications Workers of America union. Many of them were tasked with servicing Verizon’s landline phone business and FiOS broadband services across several U.S. East Coast states, including New York and Virginia. A resolution on various issues, including temporary job relocations, pensions and moving call center jobs offshore, has yet to be reached. Verizon has trained thousands of non-union employees over the past year to ensure no service disruption.
Sources say that the unions and the company are still far apart on contract talks, even as employee healthcare benefits are set to expire on Saturday. Under federal law, the worker’s health care coverage is set to expire on April 30. A meeting between Verizon and union representatives is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.