Tali Arbel

NEW YORK: Striking Verizon employees may be back to work next week after the company and its unions reached an agreement in principle for a four-year contract.

About 39,000 landline and cable employees in nine Eastern states and Washington, D.C., have been on strike since mid-April, one of the largest strikes in the United States in recent years.

Verizon had trained other workers to step in, but there were still delays in installations for Fios customers.

Verizon said that it had high health care costs for its unionized workers, which have shrunk as it sold off large chunks of its wireline unit and focused on its mobile business, which was not unionized. It also wanted the union workers, just over one-fifth of its U.S. workforce, to agree to move around to different regions when needed, which the union opposed.

The union and Verizon are not giving details of the contract, so itís not clear yet what the agreement entails for workers.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said Friday that the agreement is being written and will be submitted for approval by union members, and he expects workers back on the job next week.

The workers had been working without a contract since August.