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SBC, CWA Agree to Extend Contract

May 7, 2004

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Negotiators for SBC Communications Inc. and a labor union representing 100,000 workers agreed to extend their contract past a Saturday strike deadline, the chief federal mediator said Friday.

The Communications Workers of America could still call a strike with 24-hours notice, but mediator Peter J. Hurtgen called the extension ``a strong indication of the good faith being shown by both sides″ to reach a deal.

The two sides are expected to continue bargaining through the weekend and will meet with Hurtgen on Monday.

Company spokesman Larry Solomon said, ``We’re hopeful and anticipate reaching an agreement without a work stoppage.″

A strike could affect local phone service in markets throughout SBC’s range in the West, Midwest, Southwest and Southeast, although the company had planned for management employees and retirees to handle key duties in case of a walkout.

Negotiations between the San Antonio-based company and CWA have focused on contract provisions on wages, job security, health care and pensions. The old contract representing workers in 13 states expired on April 3.

Earlier Friday, Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for the labor union, said CWA members wouldn’t necessarily strike at midnight even if the two sides had failed to reach an agreement. She said members might stay on the job if contract talks were progressing.

SBC has not endured a strike in 21 years.

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