Thousands of telephone workers across the country, including non-management employees of the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Cos. of Washington, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, went on strike yesterday after the Communications Workers of America and several Bell operating companies failed to agree on new contracts. The immediate impact on telephone service was expected to be minimal because of a high level of automation and the use of managerial employees in place of striking operators and other workers. Some delays were expected, however, in directory assistance and services for new telephones. Bell Atlantic officials said no talks were scheduled yesterday. The major stumbling blocks to an agreement between union officials and Bell Atlantic, the parent of C&P Telephone, were wages and health-care benefits. The union rejected the company's latest proposal, which included a 3 percent wage increase in the first year of a three-year contract and 1.75 percent plus cost of living increases in years two and three. On health care, the union rejected Bell Atlantic's proposal that members pay a $150 deductible for hospital care. Under the contract that expired over the weekend, the $150 deductible applied only to doctor bills. Bell Atlantic officials said health-care costs have been rising about 20 percent a year and need to be brought under control. "Bell Atlantic, one of the most profitable companies in America, has refused to offer a fair wage proposal," said Bill Bickers, an official of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Bickers called Bell Atlantic's final proposal a "slap in the face," adding that the company earned about $1.3 billion last year and should not be asking its employees to give back health-care benefits negotiated in earlier agreements. The strike is the first at Bell Atlantic -- parent of C&P Telephone Cos., Diamond State Telephone in Delaware and New Jersey Bell -- since the company was created after the 1984 break-up of American Telephone & Telegraph Co. The strike affects 41,000 employees, including 22,400 workers at C&P Telephone. The union and Bell Atlantic had reached agreement on one previous contract in 1986. Under the terms of that agreement, salaries for telephone operators ranged from $14,000 to $24,000 a year, Bell Atlantic officials said. Although CWA officials and BellSouth agreed on a new contract that called for a 4 percent raise, CWA members who work for NYNEX Corp. and Pacific Telesis, the Bell operating companies on the East and West coasts, also went on strike. Talks continued, meanwhile, between Bell of Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bell and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents 11,000 workers at the two companies. Bickers, who said at a CWA press conference that he was "frustrated" and ready to go back to the bargaining table at any time, charged that Bell Atlantic was proposing to restructure jobs in a manner that would divide union members by helping workers in some states and hurting members in others. Union officials printed "Dump the Lump" buttons, rejecting Bell Atlantic's proposed $300 lump-sum payment to employees if an agreement were reached. Ed Grogan, vice president of labor relations for Bell Atlantic, said he was disappointed over the strike. "We're also extremely disappointed for our customers and any inconveniences this action may cause," he said.