Nine hundred members of the city's largest public employees union began returning to work at 11 p.m. yesterday, 45 minutes before union representatives and city officials sat down for what one side termed a resumption of negotiations and the other called a "chat."
Members of Local 195, Independent Public Employees Association, who went on strike Friday morning, called last night's meeting a victory. "We have succeeded in forcing the city back to the bargaining table," James Cassidy, president of Local 195, said yesterday.
But city officials, who insist they have a valid contract with the union, said they would not reopen negotiations. "We just intend to sit down and listen to their problems; we will not begin to bargain again," City Manager James L. Sullivan said as he entered the meeting.
Sullivan added, however, that the city might discuss a single issue--the timing of wage increases.
Union attorney Michael Feinberg said last night that if the city "does not come here and talk in good faith, we'll have to reassess the situation," but he added that "we did not come here so we could walk out again."
Should the union resume the strike, city solicitor Russell Higley said last night he would return to court to seek fines and possibly the jailing of union officials.
A state court judge Saturday afternoon granted a temporary injunction against the strike by the union, which represents public works employees, clerical workers, cemetery workers, hospital orderlies and other workers.
City officials insist that the union ratified a new contract in early July. The union rejected the same pact in a second vote two weeks later and began calling for a resumption of negotiations.
Sullivan has refused to resume bargaining pending a state ruling on the validity of the new contract, a stance union officials said prompted the wildcat strike.
The strike did little to disrupt the city's 350th anniversary celebration, Mary Ellen Fitzgerald, who coordinated the festivities for the city, said yesterday.
"We had all our supervisors out driving trucks, as well as people from the traffic and electrical departments and even the library," Conrad Fagone, head of the public works department, said last night.
"The city's chief architect was manning the phones," he added.
Feinberg said the walkout had not been timed to coincide with the 350th celebration though pickets marched at several of the events