FairPoint, labor unions deadlocked in contract negotiations

FairPoint Communications failed to come to terms on a new labor agreement for about 1,700 workers represented by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

Although the six-year contract expired on midnight Aug. 2, the company and the two labor unions said they will continue to talk to work out a new agreement.

The IBEW and CWA contracts mainly cover customer service employees, installation technicians and cable splicers working under agreements in the telco's northern New England territories in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Among issues that FairPoint and the unions could not work out are related to health insurance costs, pensions and subcontracting of work that's currently conducted by union members.

As both parties work out their issues, the company and the unions said they 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.

According to the IBEW, FairPoint wants to freeze union members' pensions, weaken seniority rights, increase outsourcing, reduce health care coverage and wages and eliminate retiree health care for active employees. On Friday, the telco rejected the unions' latest proposal.

FairPoint acknowledged in a prepared statement that the unions did not accept the company's own proposals on pension, health care and retirement benefits.

"To date, the unions have rejected company proposals on most of the core issues in these negotiations," said FairPoint spokeswoman Ange Amores Beaudry. "There has been little or no movement on pensions, retiree medical for active employees or subcontracting, issues which are key to reaching new contracts."

Beaudry added: "The unions have dug in on almost all of their current benefits under contracts from a bygone era," which she says "results in no movement toward an agreement which will be fair to our employees while enabling the company to be competitive and facilitate in providing modern telecommunication products and services successfully to our customers, communities and states."

For more:
- see the IBEW release
- and FairPoint's release

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