FOUR-DAY STRIKE SBC, union say negotiations have yielded some progress



The two sides still are discussing health-care contributions and job security.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- SBC Communications Inc. and a union representing 100,000 striking workers both said Sunday that intensified bargaining had yielded some progress toward a new contract but that sizable hurdles still had to be cleared.
Sunday was the third day in a four-day strike by the Communications Workers of America over health care and job security issues. The walkout is scheduled to end Tuesday.
Negotiations were conducted through the day by regional tables in Chicago; New Haven, Conn; Austin, Texas; and Pleasanton, Calif.
The regional tables correspond to the former stand-alone local-phone companies that now comprise San Antonio-based SBC, which is the primary local-phone provider in 13 states: Texas, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
SBC spokesman Walt Sharp said a gap remains over how much the CWA workers would pay toward their medical costs and whether union workers could fill jobs in the company's growth areas, which now are staffed largely by contract employees.
Sharp would not discuss developments on specific aspects of the talks.
Union's view
The CWA said that "considerable progress" has been made on the issue of its members' getting access to the fast-growing sectors, which includes Internet support, wireless data and fiber-optics installation.
But the union is also pushing SBC to agree that CWA workers in fields with declining manpower need be given priority for positions in their hometown. The company says it will give each surplus worker a guaranteed job offer somewhere in the same state, which the CWA finds inadequate.
Since early Friday, the jobs of striking workers -- telephone operators, clerical workers, linemen and service representatives -- have been filled by 40,000 SBC managers, contract workers and some retirees.
While there have been some reported problems with directory assistance, things overall have gone with minimal problems, said Mike Wilson, who oversees an SBC command post in San Antonio.

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