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AT&T, IBEW lead communications contracts.

AT&T, IBEW lead communications contracts

The first round of bargaining in the telephone communications industry since the court-ordered breakup of the Bell System led off with a settlement between American telephone & Telegraph Co. and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Prior to 1984, AT&T settlements with the IBEW and the Communications Workers (CWA) set a pattern for settlements between the two unions and 22 operating companies. The companies retained their identities but now are formed into seven regional firms.

Despite the auspicious leadoff settlement in the 1986 negotiations, 155,000 CWA-represented workers struck six AT&T units. The major issues leading to the stoppage reportedly were company demands for elimination of the automatic cost-of-living pay adjustment clause, elimination of incentive pay for manufacturing workers, and replacement of some high paid technicians jobs with lower paid technician assistants jobs.

AT&T and the CWA settled on national issues in mid-June, but the workers remained out pending completion of negotiations on other issues at two units. Later in the month, AT&T Information Systems and the CWA settled for 35,000 workers, following a settlement for a unit of 12,000 workers performing government work.

The 3-year IBEW contract, which was later automatically modified to contain additional terms won by the CWA, provided for four new programs to increase worker job security, reflecting their concern over the job losses resulting from the more competitive atmosphere in the communications industry following the breakup of the Bell system.

Under the first of the new programs, the company will publish annual Opportunities Outlook Reports and Placement Reports. These will inform employees about emerging jobs and qualifying knowledge and skills. The knowledge and skills will be offered under a training and retraining program financed by AT&T and administered by an AT&T-IBEW National Partnership Committee. Relevant training gained by employees under this program will be considered by the company in selecting workers for future job openings.

The third facet of increased job security is a Transfer Consideration Plan to enable workers to make their career interests and choices known to the company and to ensure that the interests and choices are considered in selecting workers for jobs. A feature of this plan is a provision permitting workers to transfer among the AT&T divisions.

The fourth approach is the establishment of an Employment Opportunities Review System under which current and laid-off employees will be informed of, and can apply for, jobs which would have been filled by new hires.

In the wage area, rates at the top of the progression schedule (which covers about 90 percent of the employees) for each grade were increased by 2 percent, intermediate steps were increased by smaller amounts, and starting rates were not changed. The increase was effective June 1, 1986, and will be followed by a May 31, 1987, and May 29, 1988, increase in rates ranging from 3 percent at the top progression step down to nothing in the starting step. All employees on the payroll at the time of an increase--including those in starting steps--were assured a raise of at least $1 a week.

The provision for automatic annual cost-of-living pay adjustments was retained in the contract but will be inoperative. Apparently, the union pressed for retention of the language to increase its chances of regaining an operating provision in the future. Under the 1983 agreements, workers represented by the IBEW (and those represented by the CWA) received adjustments in August of 1984 and 1985 totaling about $3.70 a week plus 4.5 percent of individual wage rates.

The number of pay grades was reduced to three, from 10, at manufacturing plants in Omaha, NE, Shreveport, LA, Little Rock, AR, Columbus, OH, Montgomery, IL, and Denver, CO, resulting in additional pay increases for some employees. Also, wage incentives were discontinued at these plants. In exchange, employees received lump-sum payments (up to $7,000, varying by plant location or job grade) or increases in base pay rates.

In a move to reduce costs, the parties established a "Technician Assistant' job to perform certain "menial job functions' previously performed by highly paid "Systems Technicians.' The Technician Assistants will start at $200 a week and progress to $360 a week over a 30-month period. At the time of settlement, the maximum was $633 for Systems Technicians. In a related action, the parties also established a "Senior Technician' job, paying 5 percent more than the Systems Technician job. Because a surplus of Systems Technicians was expected to develop, AT&T agreed to temporarily offer workers in the job category increases in pensions as an inducement to retire.

Other terms included--

A 4-percent increase in pensions effective October 1, 1986, for employees retiring after May 31, 1986, and a 4-percent increase on October 1, 1988, for those retiring on or after that date.

A 4.5-percent increase in pensions effective January 1, 1988, for all employees who retired prior to January 1, 1985. Those retiring between January 1, 1985, and January 1, 1988, will recieve a prorated portion of the 4.5-percent increase.

Addition of a new top wage bracket of $700 or more per week to the Savings and Security Plan, permitting allotments of up to $40 a week. All participants may now designate part or all of their allotment as "pre-tax' allotments under Section 401(k) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Revision of the medical plan to cover extended health care facilities, home health care agencies, birthing centers, and chemical dependency.

A $250 increase, to $1,000, in the annual limit on covered dental charges.

Following the settlements with AT&T, the unions' bargaining attention shifted to the seven regional operating companies and the major question was to what extent the companies would follow the terms of the AT&T accords. Contracts at the regional companies were generally scheduled to expire on August 9, 1986 (the same as the original expiration date at AT&T). Early in 1986, AT&T and the CWA and IBEW had moved their contract expiration date to May 31, 1986.

The first accord at an operating company came in late June, when Illinois Bell Telephone Co. and the IBEW settled for 12,800 installation and repair technicians, data procesors, and marketing and sales employees. Bargaining was continuing for 2,300 directory assistance operators represented by the CWA.

The 3-year Illinois Bell-IBEW accord provided for an initial wage increase and a $400 lump-sum payment for an average of 2.5 percent. In the second and third years, all employees will receive 2-percent pay increases. The cost-of-living pay adjustment formula was continued, but the annual adjustments will occur only if the CPI rises more than 2 percent during a 12-month period and is subject to a 5.5-percent limit on the rise.

Other terms included--

A "success sharing plan' under which employees will receive annual lump-sum payments of at least 1 percent (of earnings) and as much as 2 percent, using a formula based on the company's return on equity and measures of customer satisfaction.

A 4-percent increase in pensions in 1987 and 1989.

Continuation of job training programs that have been successful in helping make job transitions, according to the company.

An expanded health care program called "healthchoice' offering employees the choice of a preferred provider plan that eliminate deductibles.

Illinois Bell is part of Ameritech, one of the two regional operating companies that decided to have its component companies bargain individually with the unions. The other regional company using this approach is U.S. WEST. The five regional companies bargaining as a unit with the unions were NYNEX, Bell South, Bell Atlantic, Pacific Telesis, and Southwestern Bell.
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Title Annotation:International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, telecommunication collective labor agreements
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Sep 1, 1986
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