FairPoint union workers approve new labor agreement

FairPoint Communications has made yet another step forward with its labor unions, announcing that after three days of voting, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) have ratified tentative agreements with the telco.

The agreement ends a four-month battle between the labor unions that began on Oct. 17 when 1,800 FairPoint workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont launched their strike. It was one of the longest strikes to start in 2014, with workers picketing for 18 weeks.

On Aug. 28 FairPoint implemented the terms of its initial proposals, saying the parties had reached an impasse in bargaining. Among the $700 million in concessions that the telco wanted were to increase the cost of health care coverage for union workers; a two-tier wage structure that would have paid new hires as much as 20 percent less to do the same jobs as current workers; and a greatly increased ability to outsource union members' work to low-wage contractors from outside its northern New England region.

According to the terms of the tentative agreement, which the unions voted to ratify on Thursday, FairPoint agreed to implement a union-administered health insurance plan that the CWA and IBEW said will save both workers and the company money. FairPoint also agreed to eliminate the two-tier wage structure.

Another key element that the unions negotiated in the new agreement is a provision to protect jobs like repair and call centers from outsourcing to outside contractors. While FairPoint had to bring in contract workers to conduct union workers jobs during the strike, the service provider saw customer complaints over poor service, service installation delays and wait times jump in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

"This agreement is a win for our members and for future FairPoint employees," said Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400, in a release announcing the vote. "We went on strike last October because we are committed to keeping good, middle-class jobs in New England. Our members walked the lines for more than four months, not just for themselves, but for future generations."

Now that these agreements have been voted on, the unions and FairPoint said that the striking employees will return to work this Wednesday, Feb. 25.

The new contracts will be in effect until Aug. 4, 2018.

For more:
- see the release

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