DETROIT: Saying that Detroit Newspapers Inc. used unfair labor practices, a federal judge today ordered the company to reinstate striking workers to their former positions. The decision, handed down by Judge Thomas Wilks, is a major victory for the six union locals, which went on strike July 13, 1995 over contract issues. If the ruling stands up to future challenges, the company will be forced to reinstate all "unfair labor practice strikers" and displace any replacement workers hired since the initial walkout. Approximately 2,500 workers participated in the strike and about 1,200 replacement workers took their place soon afterward. Company officials said they would appeal the ruling. Wilks' decision came on an unfair labor practice complaint brought by National Labor Relations Board's regional director, William Schaub. Among the union allegations involved were that management bargained unfairly by improperly imposing a merit pay plan on News employees before negotiations had reached an impasse, and that the company reneged on an agreement to bargain jointly with all six locals on economic issues. Although the victory is a big one for the unions, the appeals process may delay the judge's order for years to come.