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MediaOne of Utah seeks workers in case of strike

Employees rejected contract but say they won’t walk out

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MediaOne of Utah, the company that prints the Deseret Morning News and the Salt Lake Tribune, is anticipating a strike by its post-press production employees, in spite of a no-strike promise from the employees' union.

"Preparing for a possible strike," reads the headline on a classified job advertisement in the News and Tribune, explaining that MediaOne needs new "temporary and permanent replacements" for employees.

A MediaOne vice president of operations did not return two phone calls seeking comment Wednesday. MediaOne President Brent Low also did not respond to a message.

The post-press production employees work in what traditionally has been called "the mailroom." They bundle and stuff ads into newspapers. The majority of the 100 employees belong to the Communications Workers of America Local 14759, said Kent Anderson, president of CWA Local 7704, who is helping with negotiations.

About two weeks ago, 93 percent of union members at a voting meeting rejected a proposed two-year contract, Anderson said.

Among employees' problems with the proposal was a replacement of overall wage increases for "a merit increase, where a person could sit down each year and set goals and objectives where they could receive a raise," Anderson said.

The employees currently get overtime pay after 32 1/4 hours. MediaOne wanted to move the overtime mark to after 38 hours the first year of the contract and 40 hours the second year of the contract.

The employees also were unhappy with a proposal to change seniority within the department, Anderson said. The seniority system affects shifts and which positions a person works.

Union negotiators were fine with a proposal to begin a training program in which all post-press production employees learned each other's job duties.

MediaOne wanted to eliminate one of five job classifications, or positions, and have the employees in the eliminated position, "Job Code 11," move into the higher-paying Job Code 10.

Members became concerned when they learned some of the people in Job Code 11 couldn't be competent in Job Code 10 because they are hearing impaired.

"Full competency (under the proposed training program) has a higher wage than someone who's not fully competent or in training," Anderson said.

Anderson doesn't blame MediaOne for the situation of the people with hearing impairments.

"We never realized that until after we had our discussion with our membership," Anderson said. "It wasn't intentional by the company in an way."

Anderson said that there's a no-strike clause in an agreement in the two-year contract between employees and MediaOne that expired in December.

"The only way we'll not go to work is if the company locks us out," he said. "And I don't see them locking us out. I don't know why they're putting ads in the paper. We'll continue to bargain in good faith."

Anderson and other CWA negotiators hope to meet in May with MediaOne to begin working on another contract proposal, he said.

E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com