General Electric Co. and its electricians dug into a backlog of employee grievances Thursday while negotiations on the 21-day strike by 7,400 workers were in a lull.
Each side looked to the other for a call to renew talks while pickets patrolled in the rain outside all gates to the company's plants in Lynn, Everett and Medford.
"So, here we stand as we enter the fourth week of the strike tomorrow," said GE spokesman Bill Kennedy. "The union totally committed to obtain some form of special license for its stewards in their conduct toward foremen and the company firm (in its position) that the foremen must remain in charge at all times in the work place."
"The company rejected the union proposal after lengthy discussions" Wednesday, said union spokeswoman Barbara Sweeney. "The company requested a recess and said they would call to set up a new time" for talks.
She said both sides were working on several of the 150 grievances pending in the aircraft division. A similar number of disputes are waiting for action in the steam turbine division.
Members of Local 201 of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Technical, Salaried and Machine Workers walked off the job Feb. 21 after the company suspended a shop steward at the Lynn plant.
The suspension came after he allegedly cursed a GE foreman during an argument about overtime.
The union said it wants stewards given the power to settle disputes with foremen and a better system of settlement so that grievances do not gather.
The plants make engines for military jet aircraft and helicopters, along with steam turbine equipment. GE holds government contracts totaling more than $1 billion.
Kennedy said the question of relations between foremen and stewards is covered in the GE-IUE national agreement, with provision for outside arbitration if cases cannot be resolved.
"The one remaining issue . . . is the union demand that the company officially recognize in advance that the steward might violate accepted standards of behavior in discussions with a foreman and that in such instances, the discipline procedures normally provided for would not apply," he said.
"We are not going to undermine in any way the foreman's authority in the workplace. We have repeatedly pointed out that in any organization--company, government, union--there are and must be clear lines of authority," Kennedy said.