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GTE Mediator Calls Sides to July 5 Bargaining Talks

June 29, 1989|BRUCE KEPPEL | Times Staff Writer

A federal mediator Wednesday called a new bargaining session in an effort to avert a telephone strike set for July 9 by the union representing 15,000 workers of GTE California.

GTE provides local phone service for 2.7 million people in communities scattered along the Southern California coast and interior as well as in two Northern California towns.

Members of the Communications Workers of America last week rejected the latest offer of the Thousand Oaks-based company by a 55% to 45% margin. And on Tuesday they approved a tentative strike date of July 9. The workers had authorized a walkout when the old contract expired March 4 after preliminary talks, begun Jan. 30, showed little progress. Until the strike date was set, the contract deadline had been pushed back indefinitely.

Both sides immediately accepted the mediator's summons to resume negotiations at 10 a.m. July 5 in Los Angeles.

GTE spokesman Larry Cox said the company had proposed raises averaging 8.79% over the three-year life of the contract. These included, he said, "ratification bonuses" ranging from $300 to $925 with an additional one-time payment ranging from $202 to $425 for the lower clerical classifications.

On the other hand, Union bargaining Chairman Larry Beall valued GTE's pay raises at 7.5%, excluding the proposed bonuses, which he said would not apply to base pay in calculating pensions and other employee benefits. The CWA also wants clerical workers' pay rates, which he said would increase only 6% over three years, to be increased by as much as those of other employees. He noted that GTE California earned $342 million last year for its parent, GTE Corp. of Stamford, Conn.

The union represents operators, service agents, equipment installers, mechanics and clerical workers, valued the three-year increase at 7.5%, but said nothing of the bonus payments. Its best paid members are equipment installers and maintainers, who earn from $7.48 to $17.01 an hour. Among other employees, operators make from $6.02 to $12.10 an hour and line repair workers $7.23 to $16.32.

Cox of GTE said a strike would little affect telephone service but would likely delay service repairs and installation of equipment.

If it does come to a strike, it would be the first since 1963, said Beall, who then was a local bargaining chairman.

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