FairPoint Deadline Passes With No Resolution
August 3, 2014
A six-year contract between FairPoint Communications and 1,700 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and 300 members of the CWA expired at midnight Aug. 2, as the parties agreed to continue talks to forge a new agreement.
“We are committed to coming to terms with FairPoint for a contract that builds, rather than undermines, the labor-management relationship that is essential to sustained success,” said Augusta, Maine, Local 2327 Business Manager Peter McLaughlin.
Despite down-to-the-wire talks and the efforts of a mediator, the parties were too far apart on issues such as health insurance costs, pensions and subcontracting of work currently performed by union members. The IBEW believes the parties can and will reach agreement and will continue to work in a creative way to obtain a new contract.
The company and the unions have agreed to proceed under the conditions of the now-expired agreement pending resolution of a new one.
“We will continue our efforts to reach a reasonable agreement that is fair to both parties,” said Mike Spillane, business manager of Montpelier, Vt., Local 2326.
The talks concern FairPoint workers customer service employees, installation technicians and cable splicers, among others, working under IBEW agreements in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. They comprise IBEW’s System Council T-9, chaired by McLaughlin.
FairPoint’s proposals are seeking to freeze members’ pensions, weaken seniority rights, increase outsourcing, reduce health care coverage and wages and eliminate retiree health care for active employees. The company rejected the unions’ last proposal, proffered on Friday.
“FairPoint workers are holding the line for good jobs in our region and better service for our communities,” a flier from the Vermont AFL-CIO says. “They maintain critical infrastructure affecting our jobs, our kids’ education, our health and safety, our quality of life. FairPoint wants to hire less-skilled, lower-paid out-of-state or overseas contractors. They want to turn solid, family-wage jobs into low-wage jobs, making it harder to recruit and retain the experienced, highly qualified workers who can ensure we have a competitive 21st century.”
Just a year ago, IBEW business managers in New England attended FairPoint’s annual stockholder meeting in Charlotte, N.C. They asked FairPoint, which purchased Verizon’s holdings in the region in 2008 and later entered bankruptcy, to agree to early negotiations, cooperation and dialogue.
FairPoint, which emerged from bankruptcy three years ago, refused the request for early talks.
“I was disappointed by the company’s refusal to engage in dialogue with us,” said Manchester, N.H., Local 2320 Business Manager Glenn Brackett. “We understand the challenges in the telecom industry, and we want to partner with management to find solutions and increase productivity.”
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Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Joe Schumacher