Union workers ramped pressure on Frontier Communications to come to terms in an ongoing contract dispute, protesting in front of the operator’s offices in California in an attempt to force a breakthrough as negotiations dragged beyond the two-month mark.
At issue is a collective bargaining agreement between Frontier and approximately 2,000 employees in the state represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), including field technicians, customer service representatives and back office workers, a union representative told Fierce. Negotiations between CWA District 9 and Frontier began in late July, as the pair unsuccessfully sought to reach an agreement before an earlier contract expired on September 4.
Union members have been working without a contract since that date as discussions with the company have continued. They voted earlier this month to authorize a strike if necessary, but have yet to follow through on the threat.
The CWA representative said key sticking points include proposed increases to employee health care contributions alongside a reduction in medical benefits, cuts to retirement benefits and Frontier’s “elimination of the long-standing agreement to route sales and service calls from California to California-based workers.” The representative also accused Frontier of trying to walk back a commitment to a fully U.S.-based workforce and being unwilling to commit to maintain staffing levels. Those moves are indicative of Frontier’s desire to send call center jobs overseas and shift other work to contractors, the representative claimed.
A Frontier representative told Fierce "as this process moves forward, we remain committed to a resolution that offers our employees good jobs with competitive wages and benefits and cares for the long-term success of our business." The Frontier spokesperson added that though workers remain on the job without a contract "employee wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment that are required by law to continue will remain in effect" during the negotiation period.
The operator emerged from bankruptcy in April and is currently working to hit a total of 4 million locations served with fiber by end-2021. An operator executive stated in August labor and supply chain issues were not expected to impact its rollout.
In a bargaining update, CWA District 9 said the protests held at Frontier’s offices late last week were “part of the effort to increase pressure on management to do the right thing and prioritize workers over profit.” However, the branch noted the aforementioned strike authorization “gives the union the ability to strike at any moment, if needed.”
CWA told Fierce Frontier has also just begun negotiations with union workers in Connecticut and bargaining with members in New York is expected to begin “soon.”
This story has been updated with comments from Frontier Communications.