Company Demands Risk Service
Nearly 2,000 employees of FairPoint Communications in Northern New England went on strike on Oct. 17. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communication Workers of America, which represents FairPoint workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, cited the company’s unwillingness to bargain in good faith after management walked away from contract negotiations in late August.
“We did not want to take this step,” said Augusta, Maine, Local 2327 Business Manager Peter McLaughlin. “We’ve offered significant concessions to this company that would save them hundreds of millions of dollars. But they absolutely refuse to compromise on any significant issue.”
IBEW and CWA members have been working without a contract since Aug. 2. Negotiations on a new contract, which began last April, were unproductive as company negotiators repeatedly rebuffed union proposals that would have preserved jobs while saving the North Carolina-based corporation more than $200 million.
“Every single offer we made, every compromise we suggested, was rejected without a counterproposal,” said Manchester, N.H., Local 2320 Business Manager Glenn Brackett. “FairPoint refused to budge, effectively abandoning bargaining all together.”
On Oct. 14, FairPoint unilaterally froze pensions for employees. Their proposals raise health care costs and institute a two-tier wage system that would pay new hires little more than the minimum wage. The company also plans to outsource skilled jobs from New England to low-paid, out-of-state contractors, a move that would have a devastating effect on communities dependent on FairPoint for jobs and service.
The IBEW and the CWA, which have filed unfair labor charges against FairPoint with the National Labor Relations Board, are setting up picket lines at hundreds of worksites in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.
They are asking customers not to cross picket lines or make deliveries to FairPoint.
“Our members have been organizing and educating the public for well over a year,” said Montpelier, Vt., Local 2326 Business Manager Mike Spillane. “While they would much rather continue to work and take care of our customers, they are absolutely united and ready to strike for as long as it takes to win a fair agreement.”
FairPoint’s refusal to bargain has been criticized by numerous public officials throughout the Northeast including Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree (Maine), Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.)., who have called on the company to return to the table.
“The 750,000 men and women of the IBEW stand in full solidarity with FairPoint employees in their fight for a fair contract,” said IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill. “FairPoint’s outrageous demands would decimate middle-class jobs in New England while threatening good service for telecommunications customers. It’s time for the company to act as a good corporate citizen, and work toward a reasonable settlement so our members can get back to servicing their communities.”
For more information go to FairnessatFairPoint.com.