Spokesmen for the American Telephone & Telegraph Co. and its 675,000 striking workers yesterday reported the first signs of progress in their second day of contract talks as the walkout against the communications conglomerate entered its 11th day.
"Both sides are negotiating seriously," AT&T spokesman Charles Dynes said. "I can't say when we'll get to where we want to be, but things seem to be moving, and a settlement could come at any time."
Duayne Trecker, a spokesman for the 525,000-member Communications Workers of America union, agreed that there had been "some movement" in the talks, but said, "We are too far apart on too many issues to expect a settlement tonight."
The talks recessed early last night.
Two other unions, the 50,000-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Telecommunications International Union, which represents about 100,000 workers, joined in the walkout. They are engaged in separate negotiations with the company here but reportedly are divided by many of the same issues.
Principal among those issues is job security in an industry that is changing rapidly with the introduction of new technology. The unions are asking for provisions that will guarantee retraining for workers displaced by technology.
Pay is another central issue in the negotiations. The strike began Aug. 6 after the unions rejected the company's offer of a 3.5 percent pay raise in the contracts' first year followed by raises tied to the cost of living in the second and third years.
Trecker also said the unions sought agreement with the company on the issue of increased stress in the work place arising from the new technologies and on greater worker involvement in company planning.
Compounding the negotiators' task are the many uncertainties posed by the court-ordered divestiture of AT&T's operating companies. It is expected that any contract signed this summer would be binding on the seven regional operating companies that will be born next Jan. 1 as part of the antitrust settlement last year between the company and the Justice Department.
Dynes said the company has been able to maintain most essential services but that there have been delays in some areas.
Trecker announced that about 2,000 workers in Texas and Louisiana would return to work today to ensure service in areas that are threatened by Hurricane Alicia.
In a statement, CWA President Glenn Watts said strikers "will perform emergency repair work caused by the storm without accepting pay for the time they work. They will concentrate on areas affecting public health and safety, such as medical, fire and police services."
"We will ask management personnel who have been performing some of these duties during the CWA strike to leave those jobs our members will perform during the course of this emergency period," his statement said.
An AT&T representative welcomed the initiative, saying, "it indicates the company and the union are united in a spirit of service to work together if there is damage" from the hurricane.