Lines of communications remain open but there is no progress reported in the strike if cemetery union workers which has closed down 20 cemeteries of the Roman Catholic Archidiocese of Boston since Nov. 5.
Striking members of Local 1285 of the Cemetery Workers Union (AFL-CLO) are pressing for increased wages and fringe benefits in a new contract Laborers now receive an average salary of about $270 a week plus overtime.
The archdiocese is seeking to cut back overtime and develop a felxible, staggered work week in an effort to retain full employment at a time of decreased workload and rising costs.
Union and archdiocesan negotiators have met unsuccessfully since August in an effort to reach an agreement. The old contract expired Nov. 1. Members of the contract negotiating committee have met several times with a federal mediator and with the president of the Boston Cemetery Association of the archdiocese.
The strike has idled 92 cemetery workers and burials have been postponed. Donald Kenny, director of the cemetery association, said there are normally about 15 to 20 burials a day in the archdiocese.
He said most funeral homes are equipped to handle a backlog of bodies for about a week, after which outside storage sites would have to be used. Four years ago, the union went on strike for two weeks.
The archdiocese said in a statement that "during the past 10 years, we have experienced a decrease of approximately 25 percent in burials in all cemeteries. During the same decade, the prices have rises approximately 74 percent. This has involved deficit budgeting for the archdiocese. Over the past two years, cemetery operations have required subsidies of archdiocesan funds amounting to several hundred thousand dollars.
"It has been our hope to cut back overtime and develop a flexible, staggered work week whereby all present employes continue to work at less than 40 hours. This would maintain full employment for all employes at a time of notably decreased workload."
The union, in asking for an increase in wages and fringe benefits charged that what the archdiocese ofers is a $750 to $1,000 reduction in pay.