Hawaiian Telcom and union ratify five-year agreement

Hawaiian Telcom (Nasdaq: HCOM) on Friday overcame a long battle with its union employees, who voted to ratify a five-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The new contract, which will be effect from Jan. 1, 2013 through Dec. 31, 2017, was agreed to by both company and union leadership on Dec. 14.

After the new agreement was reached, union leaders said they met with members throughout Hawaii to discuss it, and a ratification vote was conducted by mail over the past two weeks.

Included in the new five-year CBA are annual wage increases, a 401(k) matching program and a fixed-percentage employee contribution to health insurance premiums.

This agreement brings an end to two years of tense relations between the unions and the telco.

Last June, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) dismissed an unfair labor practices charge filed by the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers (IBEW) Local Union 1357 against Hawaiian Telcom.

The NLRB's decision came after the IBEW decided in January 2011 to challenge what the telco said was its "last, best, and final offer" for a new labor contract. Earlier, the IBEW rejected Hawaiian Telcom's previously updated collective bargaining agreement and told the telco it would be filing a legal challenge of the bargaining process.

Similar to other large telcos, Hawaiian Telcom is trying to offset ongoing revenue declines in its traditional telephone voice business by investing in IP-based consumer and business services such as IPTV and Ethernet. In Q3 2012, the service provider reported that IPTV, broadband Internet and equipment sales were offset by a 5.6 percent decline in traditional access lines.

Hawaiian Telcom is not the only telco that's had tense labor agreement negotiations with its union workers. AT&T (NYSE: T), CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) all are in the process of inking new contracts with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the IBEW.

Verizon in September reached tentative three-year contract agreements with both the IBEW and the CWA, while CWA District 6 has reached a tentative agreement with AT&T Southwest. Finally, at CenturyLink, 13,000 CWA members in 13 states in District 7 continue to bargain with management for a new contract.

For more:
- see the release

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