South Slope employees return to work, no new talks set

Union supporter suspended, CWA files charges

South Slope Communications employees represented by the Communications Workers of America returned to work on Monday after unanimously rejecting the cooperative's proposed contract on Sunday.

Kay Pence, a CWA representative, said the employees returned to work under an imposed contract as the union and the cooperative agreed to resume negotiations. The cooperative locked out the 55 employees on Friday after the previous contract expired at midnight Oct. 31.

The affected employees work in South Slope's outside plant, clerical and IT departments.

Justyn Miller, South Slope CEO, said the cooperative implemented its final contract offer and no date has been set for contract negotiations to resume.

"The government-supplied mediator will take the lead on reviewing current status with the both parties and suggest meeting dates," Miller said. "Contrary to previous reports, South Slope never proposed to lower the hourly wages for current employees in their current positions.

"We believe the proposed changes to the contract address our competitive industry and regulated telecommunications environment."

The CWA contended the South Slope proposal included a proposed 30 percent reduction in pay from existing wages for new hires or existing workers who transfer into new titles. The union said it was concerned the two-tier pay structure will negatively affect employee morale and the ability to attract and retain qualified employees.

CWA has filed charges against South Slope with the National Labor Relations Board for bad faith bargaining and the unwarranted suspension of a union supporter. Pence said the suspended employee has not been allowed to return to work.

South Slope Communications, which provides telephone, Internet and cable television, serves Amana, Ely, Fairfax, Newhall, North Liberty, Norway, Oxford, Solon, Shueyville, Tiffin, Watkins, Walford, west and south Cedar Rapids, and parts of Coralville.

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