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AT&T Union Files Unfair Labor Charge

October 29, 1985|HENRY WEINSTEIN | Times Labor Writer

ANAHEIM — The Communications Workers of America announced here Monday that it has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against a unit of AT&T stemming from the company's August decision to lay off 24,000 workers.

The union is asking the National Labor Relations Board to issue an injunction blocking the layoffs, many of which are scheduled to take place as early as Friday, according to Morton Bahr, president of the union. More than 1,300 of the layoffs would come in California, the highest of any state.

The NLRB action comes as a nationwide strike vote is being taken among Communications Workers members employed by AT&T Information Systems, the unit imposing the layoffs. The results of the vote are scheduled to be announced Wednesday evening.

Overall, Monday's action is yet another example of the increasingly fractious labor relations that have developed between the once-amicable union and management since American Telephone & Telegraph underwent divestiture early last year.

Bahr said the union's NLRB complaint is based on a pre-divestiture agreement between the union and AT&T, as well as representations made by company officials that said that workers who transferred from a Bell System operating company to AT&T "would not be subject to layoff or reduction in wages or benefits for at least seven years."

AT&T announced the layoffs Aug. 21, saying that it was eliminating "surplus" jobs as a cost-cutting move.

Bahr asserted that there are no surplus jobs and that the company is giving the work to subcontractors who do the work more cheaply because they pay their employees less.

AT&T denied the charge.

The decision by the company to lay off 24,000 workers--15,000 of whom are represented by the Communications Workers or the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers--"unilaterally" altered the existing terms and conditions of employment, Bahr said.

A spokesman for AT&T disputed those contentions.

"The CWA is staking its claims on language taken out of context," said John Geoghean, AT&T's media relations manager.

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