The striking Communications Workers of America failed to reach agreements with several of the 34 regional Bell companies by the midnight deadline last night, putting on hold the tentative national agreement reached Sunday with American Telephone & Telegraph Co.
"We are still on strike nationwide," Greg Kenefick, a local CWA spokesman, said early this morning.
The Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., which provides phone service in the the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland, was among the reported eight regional companies with which no agreement was reached, officials said.
The CWA's national executive committee met just after the midnight deadline and voted to continue negotiations, according to George Strick, vice president of District 2 of the CWA, but there was no word on when bargaining would resume here or in other locations still lacking agreements.
C&P spokesman Web Chamberlin said, "We are ready to resume bargaining as soon as possible," but he added that the company's bargaining team had gone home for the night.
"The union is ready to go back to the table," Kenefick said. "We have not broken off negotiations."
"There were too many issues and the parties were too distant" to reach an agreement last night, Strick said. He said about 20 "substantial" issues still separated the union and C&P.
Kenefick said the CWA executive committee agreed after last night's bargaining sessions that the halt in the talks "doesn't change the contents" of the national agreement, but that "they just can't go into effect."
In approving the tentative national agreement Sunday, the executive committee had imposed last night's deadline for regional settlements, with the proviso that agreements would have to be in place with all operating companies or the strike would continue by all workers.
At the time, confident union and company officials had predicted workers would be back at work today.
The strike by about 675,000 unionized workers of AT&T, including about 100,000 employes represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and 50,000 represented by the Telecommunications International Union, began Aug. 7 and has focused on how employes will be affected by the pending breakup of AT&T.
Under that court-approved breakup, AT&T will divest itself of the regional operating companies, which will be reformed into seven independent operating companies.
"AT&T has apparently no control over the operating companies," Strick said. "The strike continues because some operating companies are insisting on retrogression."
An undetermined number of workers' positions are expected to be eliminated because they are duplicative when the existing operating companies are merged into the seven new companies.
The new companies are also expected to be increasingly automated, a trend that has been highlighted during this strike. Except for directory assistance, repair and installation service, AT&T's operations seem to the general public to have been largely unaffected by the workers' strike.
Officials of the CWA, which represents 525,000 employes, seemed surprised just after the deadline passed that the two sides had failed to reach an agreement, much in the same way that the union and company seemed surprised when the original negotiations broke down.
Among the things that had to be determined at the local level were pay differentials in various metropolitan areas, job descriptions and company practices of evaluating and disciplining operators based on time performance and actual monitoring of calls they handle.
In addition to a larger pay increase--5.5 percent compared with 3.5 percent--the tentative national agreement includes several landmark provisions that provide protection to workers whose jobs are made obsolete by technology.
The centerpiece is a $36 million company-funded training and retraining program to provide new skills to workers whose jobs are phased out or downgraded, as well as to employes who want to enhance their career development. The training programs would be general--rather than geared to a specific position--and will be open to all employes with more than one year of experience.
The job-protection package also provides that workers near retirement who are laid off because their jobs have been made obsolete would receive an extra $400 a month in retirement pay for 48 months if they worked for the company for 20 years.