Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 14, 2012

Consolidated employees return to work without contract

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Striking Consolidated Communications employees went back to work without a contract Wednesday evening.

The 188 telephone company employees represented by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 702 had begun striking Dec. 6, citing an impasse over the future course of the employee pension plan. While company officials have claimed the current pension plan is financially unsustainable, union representatives say the company is asking the employees to give up too much.

Despite the continued impasse, employees began coming back to work at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Negotiations were scheduled to resume today.

Consolidated spokesman Laura ZuHone said in a news release union leadership informed the company Tuesday evening that its membership was returning to work without a contract.

Consolidated human resources chief Ryan Whitlock said in the news release company officials worked all day Wednesday to prepare for the return of union employees.

"Our business is complex and in order to integrate the large number of union employees back into the workforce with the least disruption to our customers, we needed a day to prepare," Whitlock said.

Whitlock said union members may not have been receiving accurate information from its leadership about the situation.

"We do not know what has, or has not, been communicated to the membership through their IBEW leadership, but it's clear there is misinformation circulating," he said. "Our concern is that employees  have not had accurate information with which to make personal decisions."

Local 702 officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Local 702 represents technicians, customer service representatives, repair, warehouse and technical employees. The company's communication centers in Mattoon, Taylorville and Litchfield reopened Thursday.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.