FairPoint strikes tentative labor deal with IBEW, CWA unions

FairPoint Communications has reached a tentative agreement with its union workers represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) unions, ending a four-month strike.

"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," the unions and FairPoint said in a joint statement. "At the same time, the agreements permit the Company to achieve a much more competitive position in the marketplace."

The two groups added that the agreements will enable the company to "achieve a much more competitive position in the marketplace."

Members of the two unions plan to vote to ratify the tentative agreements, the details of which have not been made public, as soon as possible.

After signing the tentative agreements, FairPoint and the unions said that striking employees will return to work on Wednesday, Feb. 25.

News that the two sides were close to coming to an agreement seemed imminent.

According to a New Hampshire Union Leader report, FairPoint cancelled all future police detail work outside its Manchester worksites. Since the strike began in October, the telco had been paying Manchester police officers to stand with striking FairPoint workers so replacement workers could enter and leave work locations without being harmed.

Getting to a tentative agreement has been anything but easy.

When negotiations with the service provider broke down over retiree health care, freezing pensions and the use of extra contract labor, nearly 1,700 Fairpoint workers represented by the northern New England chapters of the IBEW and CWA went on strike in October.

During the strike, FairPoint reported that the amount of vandalism incidents against its network and related equipment in northern New England had risen sharply since the strike began. At the same time, customers in three Northern New England regions, including Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, continued to report long service repair times.

Besides the outages and damages to its network, the other damaging element of the strike was that the state of New Hampshire delayed a decision on approving a $13 million contract with FairPoint amidst a spike in service outages in late December. Although the state later approved the contract, FairPoint had to agree to hold a series of public meetings in New Hampshire to discuss service issues with customers.

In December, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rejected the unions' accusations that the service provider was bargaining in "bad faith." Following the NLRB's decision, the unions and FairPoint began meeting with a mediator from the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to find a solution.

For more:
- see the release
New Hampshire Union Leader has this article
- WMUR.com has this article

Related articles:
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FairPoint says vandalism on network has spiked during union strike