Settlements Reached in Phone Strikes in Seven States
Undated (AP) _ More agreements were reached in the Baby Bell telephone strikes, with Bell Atlantic agreeing to tenative settlements with two striking unions and Illinois Bell signing a pact with its strikers.
Bell Atlantic union members, who were on strike for 23 days, began reporting to work today, but a utility official said that operations wouldn’t return to normal for several days. The company serves six states and the District of Columbia.
Union officials in Illinois, meanwhile, urged members to stay out until agreements are reached with Bell companies in Michigan and Indiana. Two other Ameritech Bells in Ohio and Wisconsin reached agreements with workers over the weekend.
About 200,000 workers went on strike earlier this month at four of the Baby Bells, the regional telephone companies created by the 1984 breakup of AT&T. With the Bell Atlantic settlement and the one reached earlier at Pacific Telesis on the West Coast, only NYNEX Corp. and parts of Ameritech are strikebound.
In New York City, hundreds of union members held a rally at Flushing Meadows Park, site of the U.S. Open Tennis championship. NYNEX, which serves New York and most of New England, is a corporate sponsor of the tournament, which began Monday.
Bell Atlantic’s strike began Aug. 6. A tentative contract settlement was reached 11 days later with the company, which covers West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey.
However, local issues remained in dispute, and CWA officials had urged the 41,000 strikers to remain out until they were resolved in all seven states.
Agreements were reached Monday with the last unions: two CWA locals representing 8,900 technicians and 2,700 service representatives in Pennsylvania and two Delaware locals, said spokesmen for Bell Atlantic subsidiaries Bell of Pennsylvania and Diamond State Telephone.
In a statement from Washington, CWA Vice President Peter Catucci told strikers to report to work at the start of their next shift.
Neither side released terms of the agreements. The issues discussed included grievance procedures, work rules, and contracting for outside work, officials said.
Bell of Pennsylvania spokesman Tom Duddy said the strike inconvenienced few customers, but added it would take a few days to return to normal operations.
A tentative contract settlement has also been reached at Pacific Telesis, which serves California and Nevada.
Weekend settlements in Ohio and Wisconsin paved the way for the Illinois contract agreement, said CWA spokesman Steve Rosenthal. Bell companies in those three states, as well as Indiana and Michigan, are subsidiaries of Ameritech.
Although union officials urged strikers to stay out pending settlements in Michigan and Indiana, Illinois Bell expressed hope that workers would be back on the job soon. The company said managers would continue filling in.
Details of the three-year pact were withheld until they could be given to the 2,900 strikers, most of them operators, who walked out Aug. 13. No date for a ratification vote was announced.
Both sides described the agreement as fair. Negotiators on both sides would not say whether a compromise had been reached on the main issue: how a 5 percent pay raises would be granted.
Negotiations between Michigan Bell and its striking 12,800 workers broke down early today, a company spokesman said.
″There are a few sticky issues that remain,″ said Phil Jones. ″They all focus around the need to reach a contract that balances the needs of the union and of the company. We expect to resume discussions today, although no definite time’s been set.″
It was the same story in Indiana.
″We started the day looking pretty good, but then things took a turn for the worse,″ said Estel Gibson, a spokesman for Indiana Bell.
At the New York rally, union members heard speeches by CWA President Morton Bahr and other union leaders, then marched around the section of the park where the U.S. Open was being played.
The union was not trying to disrupt the games or keep people from attending, said union spokesman Bob Masters.
Talks involving NYNEX, the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are to resume Wednesday.