A federal mediator ordered US WEST and the Communications Workers of America to return to the bargaining table on Sunday as the strike affecting the company's service in 13 states enters its eighth day.

Talks broke up before noon Saturday, and the company accused the union of stalling negotiations.Mike Fernandez, US WEST vice president of communications, said in a Saturday press release that the union has bargained with the company for only 65 minutes since the strike began.

Michael Frandsen, company spokesman in Salt Lake City, said the union has agreed to negotiate for a little more than nine hours total over the past two weeks.

"If you look at the figures, what we need is more talking," Frandsen said Saturday. "There's been very little of that, even though US WEST has made it clear that it's willing to talk around-the-clock if necessary."

Gail Metcalf, president of CWA Local 7704 in Salt Lake City, said such statements were "another dirty tactic" by US WEST.

"They continue in the press to misrepresent issues that try to make the union look like we want our people out on the street with no pay, with no food for their families," Metcalf said. "That's totally absurd that we would want to do that."

Fernandez also said that the union has not offered any proposals or counterproposals to US WEST. But Metcalf said CWA feels it cannot make any proposals at this time.