THE BRONX - Nearly half of all the workers at Verizon Communications Inc. went on strike this weekend as negotiations for a new labor contract failed.

Verizon and two unions, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, have been in talks since June. However, representatives say the talks were still far from over when the contract expired Saturday night. Workers on strike are technicians and customer-support employees in the wireline unit.

Workers say Verizon's proposed changes to the contracts would eliminate benefits for those injured on the job, gut pension security and reduce paid sick leave. Verizon says it has trained more than 40,000 managers and contractors to fill the role of the workers now on strike.