Strikes Continue Against Phone Companies In Four States
Undated (AP) _ The union representing 12,600 striking Michigan Bell employees may ask the state to mediate the dispute, and more talks were scheduled in an effort to end a 5-day walkout by 38,600 telephone workers in three Northeastern states.
Also continuing to strike today in 14 Western and Midwestern states were roughly 1,000 employees of US West Direct, the publishing arm of Denver-based US West Inc.
Faced with a midnight deadline, meanwhile, representatives of New Jersey Bell Telephone Co. and the Communication Workers of America continued negotiations over a contract for 4,500 workers.
Tentative agreements were reached Wednesday between the CWA and local Bell companies in Ohio and Indiana. Most of the 310,000 CWA members employed by the ″Baby Bells″ belong to units that have reached tentative settlements or agreed to work while talks continue.
Contracts with the Baby Bells, which were born in the 1984 breakup of American Telephone & Telegraph Co., expired Saturday at midnight.
Michigan Bell Telephone Co. supervisors have taken over for operators, repairmen and billing clerks since the strike began early Wednesday, but directory assistance, billing and new service orders were slowed for the state’s 3 million customers.
No new negotiations have been scheduled, but both sides have expressed willingness to continue talks.
″The package is still on the table. We’re willing to meet with the union to make it more palatable to them,″ said chief company negotiator Richard Christie.
He said the company’s final offer rejected Tuesday night by CWA negotiators included a wage increase of 3.8 percent over the length of the three-year contract. It also included bonuses, profit-sharing and cost-of-living adjustments that could raise wages by 17 percent over the contract, he said.
″It was simply not adequate to meet our members’ needs,″ said David Lindemier, CWA director in Michigan.
Michael Perri, a spokesman for CWA District 4, which represents the strikers, said the union has drafted a letter asking the state for a mediator to join contract talks, but he didn’t expect a response before Friday.
Laura Paige, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Labor, said the state is prepared to enter the negotiations immediately if both sides agree on mediation.
But Greg Gordon, a Michigan Bell spokesman, said there is no such need since the company is prepared to negotiate.
Negotiations between the CWA and NYNEX Corp., which includes the New York Telephone Co. and the New England Telephone Co., were to resume today after meeting until late Wednesday, said Jim Crosson, a company spokesman.
Neither Crosson nor Bob Master, a CWA spokesman, would comment on the status of the talks, nor the issues.
About 37,600 workers walked out at New York Telephone early Sunday, while 850 workers are striking New England Telephone Co. in Massachusetts and 150 in New Hampshire.
Because of automated switching, most New Yorkers have been unaffected by the strike by operators, intallers and maintenance workers; however directory assistance callers had to wait several minutes during business hours as managers working 12-hours shifts filled in.
In New Jersey, talks were to resume today, but the CWA has said if no agreement is reached by midnight, it may call a strike.
The issues included job classifications and other work rules, company spokesman Jim Carrigan said.
Ohio Bell Telephone Co. and the CWA said they had reached a tentative agreement covering 10,100 CWA employees.
Also Wednesday, the CWA reached agreement on a three-year contract that affects about 4,300 employees of Indiana Bell.
The CWA represents more than 1,500 salespeople, clerical workers and production workers at US West Direct. Company spokeswoman Judy Servoss said 490 reported to work Wednesday.