NEWARK, N.J. — A federal judge Monday ordered Western Union to turn over documents on the company's finances to two unions and said that employees will be temporarily free of wage concessions agreed to last year should a higher court stay his order.
U.S. District Judge Herbert Stern ruled after finding that an agreement that the Upper Saddle River, N.J.-based communications company signed last year bound the company to giving the workers a say in Western Union's management.
"There has been a promise made by the corporation to bring the workers into management and ownership," Stern said. He added that the workers could not take part in management decisions without knowing about company activities.
Agreed to Wage Cuts
In return the workers agreed to a six-month, 10% wage cut to help save the company $10 million a year, the judge said.
A week ago, Western Union announced that its 31 lending banks had agreed to extend until Oct. 31 some $45 million in financing that had been arranged in January.
The judge's ruling came in a lawsuit brought two weeks ago by the United Telegraph Workers Union and the Communications Workers of America. The unions represent about 8,000 workers.
Stern said the unions have "fully performed" their role in the agreement by accepting the wage cuts.
"If the corporation does not perform, it gets the benefit of the bargain without the duty," the judge said.
Stern said the company should turn over to the unions all financial documents they are seeking, except those covering strategies on dealing with the unions.
Documents that are not turned over should be submitted to the judge for a private inspection, Stern said.
Attorneys for Western Union contended that some of the papers sought by the unions were "speculative" documents by financial consultants and others and were "pre-decisional."
They also said that the agreement did not envision management relinquishing its rights and that the company already has turned over documents that it considers appropriate for release.
Attorneys for the unions said they want access to documents made available to creditors and banks.
John Bennett, an attorney for the company, said he did not know if Western Union would appeal Stern's ruling.
Stern said that, if the appeals court grants a stay, the employees would not be bound by the wage cuts for the duration of the stay. If the company eventually wins, it could recoup the money, the judge said.