Frontier, IBEW say special access price cut could hurt union workers

Frontier Communications (Frontier Communications)

Frontier Communications and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) recently told the FCC during a meeting that the regulator's proposal to cut business data services (BDS) prices could have repercussions on the ILEC's union workforce.

Like its fellow ILEC brothers AT&T and CenturyLink, Frontier’s workforce is represented by the IBEW and Communications Workers of America (CWA) unions.

“Tens of thousands of IBEW members install, maintain, and support the business data services (BDS) provided by incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) like Frontier,” Frontier and IBEW said in a letter to the FCC. “IBEW and Frontier explained that if the FCC imposes BDS price cuts -- at a time when there has never been more competition in the BDS market -- it would undermine investment, hurt competition, and ultimately put thousands of union jobs at risk.”

The pair pointed out that CLECs, wireless operators and cable operators don’t use unionized labor, meaning that their workforces can’t get access to similar salaries or access to health care benefits.

“Meanwhile, competitive local exchange carriers, wireless companies (with the notable exception of AT&T), and cable companies generally block organized labor and do not provide the same level of pay, benefits, or working conditions,” Frontier and IBEW said. “Considering that BDS agreements are most often agreements between large, well-capitalized companies, the Commission should not penalize companies that use organized labor by artificially favoring those that do not.”

Preserving jobs for its union workforce comes at a time when Frontier has made strides in striking agreements with workers represented by the CWA and IBEW in recent years.

In October 2015, Frontier reached union labor agreements with the IBEW and AFL-CIO in California and Florida. Separately, Frontier carved out an agreement with California workers represented by the CWA District 9 union in July 2015.

The CWA echoed a similar sentiment, adding that the impact could be even greater in rural markets where there’s less business customers to serve.

“A drastic cut in business data service rates will create disincentives for job-creating investment in high-speed data networks,” CWA said in a separate letter. “This is particularly true in rural America, which is characterized by higher-cost, lower-density places with fewer business customers.”

In a follow on letter, CWA President Chris Shelton said that “potential job losses are not idle thinking,” citing CenturyLink’s move to lay off 3,500 employees -- or as much as 8 percent of its workforce -- due to a decline in its legacy TDM-based revenues.

During the second quarter, CenturyLink reported that total operating revenues for the quarter were $4.4 billion, down year-over-year from $4.42 billion in second quarter 2015.

For more:
- see Frontier, IBEW’s letter (PDF)
- see the CWA’s letter (PDF)
- and this second CWA letter (PDF)

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