Bell System union workers began returning to their jobs within hours of yesterday's predawn end of the 22-day nationwide strike against the American Telephone & Telegraph Co., but it will be early October before national and local agreements can be ratified by the 675,000 workers.
Both sides said they are pleased with the proposed settlements.
"We feel that we have gotten good contracts," said Rozanne Weissman, a spokesman for the Communications Workers of America. "We think that it was good for supervisors to go into our people's roles and have a firsthand taste of our people's pressures on these jobs.
"And they clearly were not able to meet the employment expectations that they expect our people to meet," she said.
Mike Houghton, speaking for Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., which settled with 32,000 local strikers Saturday, said, "We settled our differences, and we think we have got a good contract. We're very happy that our employes are going back to work and the strike is over." CWA President Glenn Watts, whose union represents 525,000 of the strikers, said yesterday that the tentative national and local agreements and a ballot are being printed and will be mailed to each striker, perhaps by the end of this week.
Because all union members, including 100,000 represented by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and 50,000 by the Telecommunications International Union, must read the contracts and vote by mail, the results will not be known until the first week in October, he said.
C&P expects the outcome of its members' vote by Oct. 8, Houghton said.
He said that C&P employes' new wage package will be retroactive to yesterday, the end of the national strike, and that other benefits will be retroactive to Aug. 7, when the strike started. Various other benefits will take effect as agreed during the life of the contract, he said.
The nationwide strike ended officially at 2:05 a.m. EDT yesterday when the last two of 34 local contracts were settled. Watts said the strikers' strategy was for all to remain on strike until every local agreement had been tentatively settled.
Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania and Western Electric's installation division were the final two.
Union representatives complained that even though wages, benefits and other major issues were resolved in national contract negotiations eight days ago, local negotiators began to take back previous gains.
"We had been told by our people that for the most part local negotiations were going pretty well, in fact better than the national negotiations," Weissman said.
"At the last minute, some of the local companies started dumping back on the table give-back oriented proposals, and that's not really the way you do bargaining.
"The feeling was very, very strong among our members that those kind of proposals were not acceptable . . . .
"Our workers felt that they have the highest productivity in the industry, and that what we were requesting was not going to jeopardize any of these companies as they went into a competitive environment," she said.
" . . . It was to our benefit that the Bell System could be in a competitive position as AT&T divested itself of these companies.
"In essence, our members are also being divested, and a major thrust of that bargaining was employment security," she said.
Watts said the union had "broken real ground" by negotiating safeguards against job phaseout and displacement caused by technological changes.
Houghton said the last issues resolved with C&P local union members were workloads, job jurisdictions and assignment of the work force.
Houghton noted that C&P customers waiting for repairs or installation must be patient.
He said that all local employes are expected back today but face a backlog. Customers will be served on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning with those who called before or during the strike, he said.
Emergency service to hospitals, the military and government has been given priority, and all customers who have requested service will be contacted by C&P, he said.
"We will serve them faster if we don't have to take the time to re-verify," he said. "We'll get back to them."