Three Regional Telephone Companies Avert Strike; Fourth Negotiating
ATLANTA (AP) _ A threatened midnight strike was averted for three regional telephone companies late Saturday, while a West Coast company and the workers union decided to stay at the bargaining table Sunday.
The Communication Workers of America and Ameritech and BellSouth agreed to extend their contracts on a day-to-day basis, said Jeffrey Miller, a national spokesman for the CWA, which represents the bulk of the nonmanagement jobs at the companies.
In Washington, D.C., Bell Atlantic and the CWA broke off talks but agreed to resume negotiations on Sunday. Union employees will continue to work without a contract, at least until the status of Sunday’s talks is assessed, CWA spokesman Doug Thompson said.
``We’re far apart on some key points _ wages, job security and health care cost shifting,″ Miller said earlier in the day.
The strikes at the three companies would have involved 129,000 workers and disrupted customer service, repairs and installations for about 50 million lines in 20 states.
Negotiators for CWA and Pacific Telesis, the parent company of Pacific Bell, went past the midnight Saturday deadline, said PacTel spokesman Dane Pascoe. PacTel serves about 15 million lines and employs about 35,000 CWA members in California and Nevada.
Both companies agreed to ``stop the clock″ and continue contract talks Sunday, Pascoe said. The union said the strike deadline was extended a second time, until 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
``We made some significant progress in the last three hours in the area of employment security,″ union spokesman T Santora said early Sunday just before the first extended round of bargaining ended.
Santora said PacTel had shown movement on employment security issues, prompting the extension. He said the deadline could be extended further if talks continue to progress.
``I’m told that they are bargaining intensely out there,″ Miller said earlier.
In Chicago, Ameritech and the CWA were ``still extremely far apart on most of the key issues,″ the union said. Ameritech, with 32,000 CWA members, serves about 15.5 million lines in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
Bell Atlantic, with some 37,000 union workers, serves about 16 million lines in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.
BellSouth, with about 60,000 union workers, serves 20 million lines in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and the Carolinas.
Workers have gone on strike several times since the regional phone companies were formed following the government-directed breakup of AT&T in 1984. The largest came in 1986, when about 68,000 workers struck telephone companies in New York and 12 western states.