SBC workers to stage 4-day strike

/ Source: The Associated Press

The union representing 102,000 employees of SBC Communications Inc. said Wednesday it would stage a four-day strike starting Friday because of a deadlock in contract negotiations with the nation’s second biggest local phone service provider.

“This is an opportunity for the company to see how seriously we are taking this,” said CWA spokeswoman Candice Johnson, who said the strike would begin at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

SBC spokesman Walt Sharp didn’t immediately return a call Wednesday but has said the company is negotiating in good faith.

The union has criticized the company for proposing a first-year wage freeze while shifting more health care costs in negotiations for a new contract.

A strike would likely affect local phone service in SBC’s 13-state coverage area, which includes Texas, California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Connecticut. It would be CWA’s first strike against SBC since 1983.

The telecommunications company says it has contingency plans for management employees and retirees to handle key duties in case of a walkout.

The contract expired in early April. Negotiations have been continuing in Washington, D.C., with a federal mediator. But for the past three months, health care costs and job security issues have been sticking points.

In 2003, SBC was by far the most profitable of the four so-called “Baby Bell” local-phone companies, earning $8.5 billion on revenue of $40.8 billion.