AT&T, unions reach tentative agreement on contract negotiations

Sunday, April 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ After more than a month of negotiations, AT&T and two unions representing nearly 30,000 workers said Saturday they had reached a tentative agreement on a new 18-month contract.

It includes a 6 percent wage increase over the 18 months, an 8 percent pension increase and 5.5 percent interest payments on cash balance retirement accounts.

The agreement also includes company contributions to new Retiree Health Care Accounts that will offset premiums retirees would otherwise have to make during the length of the contract.

Union members will receive a special one-time cash bonus of $250 after the agreement is ratified. The company and the union also agreed to establish a new Constructive Relationship Council to address issues of employment security.

When ratified, the agreement will cover approximately 27,000 members of the Communications Workers of America and about 900 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Negotiations opened in March after the two unions refused AT&T's initial offer to extend the current contracts for up to 18 months because the company would not agree to a no-layoff pledge.

AT&T pointed to the recession and hard-hit telecom industry, which had layoffs of 300,000 workers last year, when it opened the bargaining session. It has cut more than 20,000 jobs in the past four years, the unions said.

CWA represents about 28,000 network and communications technicians, customer service representatives and operators. IBEW represents about 1,000 workers, mostly operators who handle keyboard messages for the speech and hearing impaired.