After four months on strike, unions representing thousands of FairPoint Communications employees in New England announced Feb. 19 that they have reached a temporary agreement with the company.
Nearly 2,000 IBEW and CWA members in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont went on strike Oct. 17 after the company walked away from negotiations. FairPoint had sought millions in concessions, canceled health benefits for strikers, slashed pensions and were looking to outsource highly-skilled New England jobs to low-paid, out-of-state contractors.
Fairness@Fairpoint, a group comprised of IBEW and CWA leaders and activists, said in a press release:
The company and the unions agree that the terms of their new collective bargaining agreements will address, in meaningful and constructive ways, the objectives of the parties and that the new labor agreements will provide employees with wages and benefits that are among the best in northern New England.
At the same time, the agreements permit the company to achieve a much more competitive position in the marketplace.
Ratification voting started Feb. 20 and should be finished by Feb. 22, IBEW International Representative Bob Erickson said.
“This contract will help us keep good, middle-class jobs in New England, while allowing FairPoint to remain a viable company,” said Erickson, who is assigned to the Second District. “Overall, the mood with the members is positive. They are hoping to get back to work and eager to continue providing quality service to their customers.”
Striking workers will return to the job Feb. 25 if the contract is ratified.
Erickson said walking picket lines in during the long winter had been a profound test of solidarity and camaraderie, as families tapped into savings and relied on a strike fund to help pay the bills.
“We’ve seen a lot of strength,” he said. “This group of union members has done an outstanding job.”
Last month, the unions and FairPoint began mediation talks in Washington, D.C., with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
FairPoint employees are members of Manchester, N.H., Local 2320; Montpelier, Vt., Local 2326; Augusta, Maine, Local 2327; and CWA Local 1400 in Portsmouth, N.H.
Read a statement from the union negotiating committee at www.fairnessatfairpoint.com.