The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is reportedly probing claims by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) that striking workers have committed dozens of acts of sabotage against the company up and down the Northeast.
A strike by 45,000 Verizon workers is entering its second week as the unions and company officials appear to be at a stalemate regarding a new contract.
Among other measures, company management is seeking to freeze workers' pensions and make them contribute to health care premiums.
Reportedly, incidents of wire-cutting by aggrieved strikers have interfered with the phone services of thousands of customers between Virginia and Massachusetts.
According to reports, the FBI is viewing the alleged acts of sabotage as a “security” matter since the communications of a hospital and a police station were affected.
Police have cautioned the public that if a Verizon employee is working on a telephone box, an official Verizon company vehicle and orange cones should be nearby. Any activity between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. should be considered suspicious,
Cathy Lanier, the police chief of Washington D.C, has alerted residents to be on the look-out for potential saboteurs who might be carrying axes or other cutting tools near any phone infrastructure and facilities.
A Verizon spokeswoman told reporters that at least 28 acts of sabotage have been reported in the D.C area alone.
She indicated that cables have been cut and distribution boxes have been broken into and gutted.
"That's where they can cause more damage and cause more customers to go out of service," she added.
Acts of sabotage have also been reported in New England.
Timothy Sheehan, the police chief of Tewksbury, Mass., told local reporters: "It's obvious that it was malicious damage. A lot of the wires were pulled out. A lot of the wires were cut. You know, the boxes were all left in disarray, opened.”
He added that the phone boxes appeared to have been opened "with some form of a universal key that's germane to those that install and maintain them."
While the local unions have denied involvement, Sheehan countered: "It's obvious to me that… someone from this area that was unhappy with the results of the vote that was taken, whether or not to go on strike, had done something.”
In addition, Verizon is offering a $50,000 reward for anyone whose information on acts of vandalism against company property leads to the perpetrator’s arrest and prosecution.
The principal union representing the striking workers, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) said it repudiates such unlawful acts.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.