Several hundred Northern Virginia employes of Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. stayed off their jobs for a second day yesterday to protest the firing of one of their colleagues.
Estimates were that between 300 and 1,000 of the 2,000 employes in Northern Virginia picketed at numerous telephone company sites yesterday and vowed to stay off their jobs until the employe is rehired, according to Bob Payne, executive vice president of the Communications Workers of America Local 2323.
"It's escalated," said C&P spokesman Fred Stone said. "It's a little more heated. Between 300 and 350 people are out." On Tuesday Stone said only about 100 employes had stayed off the job. Payne said about 1,000 employes failed to show up at work yesterday.
"We're ready to sit down and talk as soon as the union gets their people back on the job," Stone said. "All employes have the right to appeal the firing of an employe. Neither the union nor the employe has filed such a grievance."
"The employe in question was fired for failing to meet the minimum requirements of the job," Stone continued.
Union leaders, however, said that the telephone installer, Martha Bessette, had been fired for having her two supervisors arrested on charges of abduction and trespassing. Those charges are scheduled for a hearing in Arlington Circuit Court on May 27.
Payne said that last month the phone company received an anonymous call that Bessette had an illegal telephone in her apartment. Company officials asked Bessette's roommate if they could search the apartment for the phone and she declined, Payne said.
Company supervisors then drove Bessette to her apartment and searched it, but no illegal equipment was found, Payne said.
On May 3 Bessette filed the complaints against the two supervisors, and on May 5 she was fired, Payne said.
"Union officials and the employe know that the issue of the arrest was not a factor in the decision to fire," Stone said. "It's a matter we will not discuss."
Stone said Bessette was fired after a "long process of warnings, suspensions, and a customer reported that she was driving recklessly in a telephone truck."
The only service disruption is that some customers will have to wait several hours or days for telephone installation, Stone added.