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Puerto Rico Telephone Strike Ends

July 28, 1998

GUAYNABO, Puerto Rico (AP) _ After failing to stop the privatization of Puerto Rico’s telephone company, some 6,400 telephone workers voted Tuesday to end a 41-day-old strike.

They will report to work on Wednesday.

Weeks of protests, service outages, an airport blockade and sabotage of phone lines failed to get Gov. Pedro Rossello to reverse his decision to sell Puerto Rico Telephone Co. for $2 billion to investors led by GTE Corp.

Members of the Independent Telephone Employees Union and the Independent Brotherhood of Telephone Employees approved a deal with the government that calls for no sanctions against most strikers.

The votes were a victory for Rossello, whose sale of a controlling interest in the phone company was the most ambitious item in a sweeping privatization agenda.

Fearing for their jobs, telephone workers went on strike June 18, vowing to stop the sale and force the government to call a referendum on the company’s future. They failed on both counts.

A July 7-8 general strike by more than 60 unions to support the telephone workers also failed to budge the government.

Under the strike-ending agreement, workers will receive a letter of reprimand that will be removed from their personnel files in six months.

The government pledged to forgo any legal action against the unions, but it will pursue criminal cases against strikers found to have sabotaged phone lines. The sabotage left thousands of customers without service.

GTE, based in Stamford, Conn., says it will guarantee all workers their jobs for at least three years. The sale must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

Also Tuesday, the head of the Puerto Rican Government Development Bank, Marcos Rodriguez Ema, said GTE’s plans to enter a $52.9 billion merger with Bell Atlantic Corp. will not affect the sale.

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