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Western Union gains concessions.

Financially troubled Western Union Corp. gained some labor cost relief in a settlement with the United Telegraph Workers that ended a 10-day strike. Bargaining continued with the Communications Workers union for 600 workers in the New York City area who continued their stoppage.

In announcing the 2-year accord, UTW President Richard Brockert said, "What we are doing is turning a very generous contract into a very good contract. We preserved as much as we could, yet we gave the company flexibility."

Company Chairman Robert S. Leventhal, who has indicated that he wants to eliminate about 2,000 of the 7,100 jobs in the two bargaining units, said, "Tough decisions had to be made, and both parties had to face up to them." The company, which had already eliminated 1,500 non-union jobs since December 1984, lost $63.3 million in 1984 and $25 million in the first half of 1985.

The UTW members will receive a 3-percent wage increase in the second contract year. In lieu of a first-year wage increase, they will be eligible for possible profit-sharing distributions after the close of calendar years 1986 and 1987. The possible distributions, in the form of deferred stock, would be financed by Western Union obligations equal to 8 percent of the first $50 million of company profits in each year, 10 percent of the next $50 million, and 12 percent of any profit above $100 million.

Other provisions included:

* Elimination of a "comparable job" clause which guaranteed that any worker with at least 5 years of service would remain on the payroll for a period equal to his or her tenure if the job was eliminated and a comparable job was not available.

* For the 1,000 workers on a 35-hour workweek, a 2-step conversion to a 40-hour schedule, with no increase in pay.

* Permission for Western Union to hire part-time workers at $6 an hour with no benefits. These employees will be restricted to the company's three telephone bureaus and their total hours will be restricted to 25 percent of all hours worked at the bureaus.

* Elimination of some job classifications, with provisions for job retraining for affected employees.

* A maximum of 20 weeks of severance pay for new employees or current employees with less than 20 weeks accrual of benefit credits who are terminated. Longer service employees already eligible for more than 20 weeks of pay will be frozen at their current accrual level. Previously, terminated workers were eligible for 20 weeks of pay after 10.5 years of service, 54 weeks after 20 years, and an additional 4 weeks for every year of service in excess of 20.

In December 1984, the company and the unions had agreed to a 10-percent pay cut to last for 6 months. After restoration of the cut on July 27, annual earnings reportedly averaged about $20,000.
COPYRIGHT 1985 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Author:Ruben, George
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Oct 1, 1985
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