DENVER Qwest Communications International Inc. and members of its largest union headed back to the bargaining table Sunday for further negotiations after a labor contract expired.
The talks come a little more than a week before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where Qwest is providing phone and Internet services. Qwest also is providing service to the Republican National Convention that begins Sept. 1 in St. Paul, Minn.
Workers represented by the Communications Workers of America had voted to authorize a strike if needed, but CWA organizing coordinator Al Kogler said no strike had been called when the contract expired after 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
The talks broke off a couple of hours later, but both sides said they were meeting again Sunday evening.
"We're certainly optimistic, but anything can happen," Kogler said. He said health care costs and raises were still under negotiation.
Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs said company executives hoped the sides would reach a tentative agreement this weekend.
The union represents about 20,000 Qwest workers in 13 states. Employees in Montana are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which also was in talks with Denver-based Qwest.
The CWA organizes Qwest workers in Colorado, Arizona, Iowa, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.