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AT&T;, Communications Workers Settle 26-Day Strike

Times Labor Writer

American Telephone & Telegraph Co. and the Communications Workers of America announced Thursday that they had settled their 26-day-old nationwide strike and the union said its 155,000 striking members will return to work today.

On June 17, the telecommunications giant and the Communications Workers announced a tentative settlement of the strike subject to resolution of contract issues at six AT&T; divisions. The two sides said they expected to finish that process in three days, but it took three times that long.

Union members will soon begin secret ballot voting on the new three-year contract and the leadership expects the process to be completed by Aug. 4.

Bargaining Goal

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“The total agreement represents a major breakthrough in the telecommunications industry because of a far reaching and innovative total-employment-security package and other gains which met the union’s chief bargaining goal of job security,” said Fran Zucker, a spokeswoman for the Communications Workers.

Union members will get an 8% wage hike spread over the next three years and increased medical, dental and pension benefits. Additionally, AT&T; agreed to contribute $21 million over the next three years to an unusual worker retraining program jointly operated by the company and the union.

And AT&T; pledged to provide workers early warning of impending cutbacks by forecasting layoffs within certain job categories and to give laid-off employees first crack at other jobs in the company.

“We are glad the strike is over and we will be glad to get everyone back on the job,” said Edith Herman, a spokeswoman for the company.

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During the strike, AT&T; used thousands of supervisors and 4,000 temporarily hired employees to fill in for striking operators and technicians. She said the company had made important gains in the labor negotiations, the first contract bargained since AT&T; was broken up by court order in 1984.

“The agreements give AT&T; flexibility in structuring and paying certain job categories so that we will be better able to keep our costs and prices in line with our competition,” Herman said. AT&T; has been highly profitable since court-ordered divestiture, but it has been facing particularly stiff competition in the computer field where the company’s performance has been disappointing to its officials and Wall Street analysts.

With the strike settled, leaders of the Communications Workers will turn their attention to bargaining with the seven regional Bell operating companies, including Pacific Telesis, that were created as a result of divestiture.

Contracts between the union and those companies expire Aug. 9. They have let it be known that they want work rule concessions and they want to eliminate cost-of-living adjustment increases for the next three years as AT&T; achieved in its contract.

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