WASHINGTON — AT&T and the Communications Workers of America reached agreement today on a tentative national contract that could end the 17-day strike by 155,000 workers against the communications giant as early as Sunday.
The union scheduled a late-afternoon news conference on the deal and said specific details of the agreement would not be released until then.
The agreement hinges, however, on the successful completion of talks at six "unit tables" in New Jersey, where negotiators are working on local issues affecting the various corporate divisions of American Telephone & Telegraph Co.
Union Remains on Strike
While the New Jersey negotiations continue, the union will remain on strike. But union spokeswoman Rozanne Weissman said it was hoped those negotiations could be completed by Saturday. If so, AT&T's unionized employees could return to work Sunday, she said.
Many "give-backs"--attempts by AT&T to impose contract wage and benefit concessions upon employees--remain on the six bargaining tables, Weissman said.
"The strike is not over," she said. "The strike continues until those six agreements are reached."
The six negotiations involve the corporate units of AT&T: AT&T Communications; AT&T Information Systems; Bell Laboratories; AT&T Technology Systems, and sales, installation and manufacturing.
Members Must Approve
Union members must ratify any agreements with AT&T. Weissman said the union planned to count ratification votes on July 28.
AT&T spokesman Herb Linnen confirmed the tentative settlement, saying, "We're pleased."
The strike is the biggest work stoppage in America since the Communications Workers began a three-week walkout against AT&T in August, 1983. It also is the first strike against the company since the court-ordered breakup of the Bell System in January, 1984.
The union contract expired May 31 and the strike began in the early morning hours of June 1. It has grown increasingly bitter, with both sides engaging in an advertising and public relations blitz to present their cases to union members and the public.