Qwest signs contract as union chalks up another winThe Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have reached a tentative agreement with Denver-based telco Qwest, pending approval by the 20,000 employees under contract. The agreement was reached in the eleventh hour after the CWA and IBEW had voted to authorize a strike when their contracts expired at midnight on Saturday. The contract calls for 9 percent raises over its three year term, and brought employees of Qwest's directory-assistance operations under contract. Based on the language of the CWA's press release, critics might complain about the agreements reached on healthcare, with the union citing the healthcare cost epidemic and Qwest's financial performance as mitigating factors in their concessions to the bosses during negotiations.The Qwest deal follows on a larger contract signed on behalf of Verizon employees by the CWA, also under threat of strike. "That day, with the strike deadline looming, the company started bargaining a lot more seriously," CWA spokesman Jeff Miller said of the earlier negotiations in a phone call last week. But even by adding call-center employees, the CWA has their work cut out for them expanding its rolls. "The new technologies are not as labor-intensive as past years. An awful lot of jobs have disappeared in the traditional copper wireline business," Miller added. What about fiber-optic linemen, like those working on Verizon's Fios efforts? Those employees were largely under contract already, according to Miller. And once the fiber's in the ground, those jobs will get buried, too. (Photo by AP/David Zalubowski)