About 700 unionized Rhode Island Verizon workers involved in a labor dispute with the company have been ruled eligible for unemployment compensation by Scott Jensen, director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.
In a decision mailed to workers and Verizon officials yesterday, Jensen ruled that the labor dispute is a lockout by the company, rather than a strike. Rhode Island has not allowed strikers to collect unemployment benefits since the 1980s, but workers involved in lockouts are eligible to collect, according to Michael Healey, DLT Spokesman.
Workers can collect unemployment for 26 weeks. The amount a worker is eligible for is determined by a formula that takes into consideration the workers pay scale and number of dependents. The maximum benefit is $566 a week, said Healey. The average benefit paid out in 2015 was $326.
In the ruling Jensen cited the lockout provision, which says that workers are eligible for benefits if ``his or her employment is a result of his or her employer’s withholding of employment for the purpose of resisting collective bargaining demands or gaining collective bargaining concessions.’’
Healey said Jensen has determined that a ``lockout existed.’’ Healey also said that the evidence and `factual statements’ submitted in the case are confidential. Verizon has the right to appeal the decision to the DLT Board of Review.
Verizon disputes the ruling. In a statement, company spokesman Rich Young said, ``This determination has absolutely no basis in fact: these employees are out of work because union leaders called a strike, not due to any lockout. The company has clearly communicated to employees that if they wish to work, that it is their right to do so. Their jobs and their work will remain available to them.''
Verizon plans to appeal Jenson's ruling ``agressively,'' said Young.
Young also asserted that more than 1,300 union-represented workers have continued to work during the dispute.
The workers involved in the ongoing labor dispute with Verizon are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA).