updated 9/22/2004 11:28:19 PM ET 2004-09-23T03:28:19

BellSouth Corp. and the Communications Workers of America reached a tentative agreement on a five-year contract Saturday night, averting a possible strike hours before the previous contract was to expire at midnight.

“We are pleased that once again the company and CWA have been able to work together successfully to find solutions to the complex issues facing our business,” said Dick Sibbernsen, vice president of Human Resources for BellSouth.

The agreement “achieves our members’ key goals of safeguarding health care for active and retired workers and strengthening employment security by providing new access for members to jobs in the growth areas of the company,” said CWA District 3 Vice President Jimmy Smith.

The new contract includes a 10.5 percent increase in base wages over the five years, pension improvement and a health care solution that enables the company to continue to provide employees with high quality, affordable health care.

BellSouth is the dominant local phone provider in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

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