Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Cincinnati Bell, union talks resume as deadline nears

By Mike Boyer, mboyer@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Negotiators for Cincinnati Bell and the Communications Workers of America resumed talks Monday in an attempt to head off a contract deadline at 2 p.m. today.

        Members of CWA Local 4400 and 4401, which represent about 2,000 Bell employees, conducted brief rallies, described as “strike drills,” outside phone company offices Monday to call attention to their situation.

        Details of negotiations haven't been disclosed, but union members have been vocal in their opposition to company calls that they pay a portion of higher health-care costs.

        A spokeswoman for the unit of Broadwing Inc. said the talks continued Monday after a weekend break. She said she couldn't comment on whether any progress was being made.

        Greg Stall, union spokesman, said Monday afternoon, “They're still meeting, which is a good sign.”

        The unions last went on strike in 1993, in a walkout that lasted a few days.

        Both sides resumed bargaining last month, after union members rejected a proposed three-year contract agreement. The vote was 52 percent against and 48 percent for the agreement worked out just hours before the old contract expired May 11.

        Union officials said members oppose a provision that called on employees to pay a portion of their health care for the first time. As a compromise, the proposal included a $500 bonus to help defray the cost, union officials said.

        The rejected proposal also included wage increases totaling 12.6 percent over the life of the contract and an increase in pensions and other changes.

        Cincinnati Bell said it has plans to minimize inconvenience to customers in event of a strike. Those plans include using management and other non-union employees to maintain service.


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