Telecommunications labor dispute enters third month

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AUXVASSE - After months of failed contract talks, a local communications company is gearing up for what could be a contentious meeting Saturday.

Communications Workers of America represents the 14 union members on Kingdom Telephone Company's 20-person staff. On Wednesday, CWA sent union representatives to Auxvasse for an "informational picketing."

After months of inaction and multiple meetings, neither side has budged since the last three-year contract expired on Jan. 1. CWA said the newest contract offered by KTC isn't worth signing, while company officials said their "best and final offer" is more than fair.

KTC has always been fair to its employees, General Manager Renee Reeter said. 

"When you add up benefits and pay, our employees earn on average almost $98,000 per year. I think it's a very good wage and benefits for the area we live in," Reeter said.

According to Local 6311 President Darin Nelson, the issue this time around stems from a comparison between the current offer versus previous deals. He said the new deal would lower vacation time and make employees choose between their past pension benefits or a slight pay raise. 

"They thought we were accusing them of an inability to pay," Nelson said. "They said they were not unable, they just didn't want to."

Reeter said she expects picketers to be at the company's shareholders' meeting and Nelson said they plan to be there. However, after so much disagreement, both sides were able to agree that Saturday's meeting should go smoothly.

"Hopefully they'll be as peaceful as they were when they were at our office. I'm not expecting any upset of any kind," Reeter said.

"We won't be blocking entrances, harassing people, anything like that. If any shareholder wants to have a discussion, we'll be happy to do that," Nelson said. 

The meeting starts at 1:00 P.M. Saturday at North Callaway High School in Kingdom City.