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Phone Strike Unlikely as Issue of Medical Benefits Is Resolved

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A threatened phone company strike appeared to have been averted late Sunday as negotiators for Pacific Telesis and a union representing thousands of workers agreed to kill a plan to increase cost-sharing for health care benefits, one of three major sticking points in the labor talks.

“A strike is unlikely at this time,” said T Santora, a spokesman for the Communications Workers of America, which represents 34,000 phone company employees in California and Nevada.

Santora said Pacific Telesis, the parent company of Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell, withdrew its demand that employees pay a larger part of premiums for health care.

Company spokesman Dane Pascoe would not comment on specifics of the health care discussions, but said, “That issue has been resolved.”

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The two sides were still hashing out differences late Sunday on two additional issues--job security and wages--but negotiators said they were making progress.

The union’s contract ran out at midnight Saturday, but the two sides agreed to extend their discussions Sunday. The talks continued late into the night. “They may just agree to get sleep and get [the final details] resolved in the morning,” Pascoe said.

The union is involved in labor negotiations with several other phone companies across the country. Contract talks with Bell Atlantic Corp. recessed Sunday after negotiators failed to reach agreement on new contracts in around-the-clock bargaining sessions over the weekend, union and company officials said.

Chicago-based Ameritech also recessed its talks for the night. BellSouth and the union will reconvene Monday to continue negotiations, said Kristie Madara, a spokeswoman for BellSouth, in a statement.

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