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U S West To Spend $10M on Backlog

September 2, 1998

DENVER (AP) _ U S West Inc. plans to spend $10 million to complete thousands of service and repair orders that were put on hold by a 15-day strike.

The money will be spent primarily on salaries for contract workers and overtime for the union technicians who began returning to work Monday.

The goal is to complete orders not requiring a technician at the site within the next week, U S West spokesman David Beigie said Wednesday. Those orders would include such things as disconnecting service, call waiting, voice messaging and starting service with existing facilities.

Orders that need on-site technicians for installation will be done as quickly as possible, depending on the location and nature of the job, Beigie said.

``We’re aiming to clear out the backlog by end of September,″ he said. ``What we’re announcing here today is another effort on our part to deal with the reality of what happened.″

Beigie called the backlog ``manageable,″ but declined to say how many orders were involved, contending it was proprietary information. He said orders range from new service and repairs to specialties, such as call waiting and caller identification.

Regulators in several states said they did not know how many orders had been delayed, but believed the total was up based on consumer complaints during the strike by the Communications Workers of America.

In Oregon, where regulators are considering penalizing the company because of delayed orders, there are about 4,000 outstanding orders, said commission spokesman Ron Karten.

In Arizona, there is a backlog of 13,000 orders, ranging from new lines to repairs and billing information. Officials said the normal level of requests for new service is about 2,000 a week.

``What we are most concerned with is that they basically just get to work and start cleaning those things up,″ said Perry Baker, a spokesman for the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The union struck U S West on Aug. 16, idling more than 34,000 operators, technicians and customer-sales representatives in 13 states. They agreed on a tentative three-year contract Sunday. About 15,000 managers worked 12-hour shifts, handling operator assistance, and service and repair requests.

Beigie said employees have been completing about 50,000 orders a day since the strike ended.

He said union employees, managers and contractors would work through the Labor Day weekend.

The sixth-largest telephone company, U S West has about 25 million customers in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

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