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TMCNet:  FairPoint, union still at loggerheads as contract expires [Bangor Daily News (ME)]

[August 04, 2014]

FairPoint, union still at loggerheads as contract expires [Bangor Daily News (ME)]

(Bangor Daily News (ME) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) PORTLAND, Maine -- The contract between FairPoint Communications and most of its workers expired Saturday as tense negotiations continue over a new deal between the two parties.

With the threat of a strike looming, the company said it has plans in place to maintain service along its lines, which is the backbone for much of the state's telecommunications infrastructure. The North Carolina-based company services roughly 700,000 telephone lines in Maine and provides cable television and Internet service.


Both parties said the Saturday deadline passed without an agreement. Company officials said in a statement the two sides remain far apart, echoing statements made earlier this month.

"There has been little or no movement on pensions, retiree medical for active employees or subcontracting, issues which are key to reaching new contracts," said Angelynne Amores Beaudry in a prepared statement. "The Unions have dug in on almost all of their current benefits under contracts from a bygone era." The unions said in a statement on their website that the company has been unresponsive to their requests.

"They have continued to be antagonistic and dismissive of all attempts to reach a fair and equitable agreement," the statement said.

Peter McLaughlin, lead negotiator and chairman of a regional council of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said earlier this month that subcontracting remained one of the key issues in negotiations. McLaughlin said the union now reviews the company's requests to bring in contractors for specific jobs. Company officials want to be able to hire contractors with less or no approval from the union.

Beaudry said in an earlier statement that the company's stance on hiring contract workers addresses a need for flexibility in hiring experts and outside vendors "as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace." That process was the subject of a long legal battle that the union won in a 2013 federal appeals court ruling finding the company wrongfully transferred union jobs to contractors in Canada and New York in 2009 and 2010.

The company said the contract represents about 1,700 of the company's 2,550 workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The two unions, organized as the group Fairness at Fairpoint, indicates on its website that it represents about 2,000 of the company's employees.

Union officials with the Communication Workers of America and local chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont said in a statement Saturday that they will continue to negotiate beyond expiration of their contract.

They will be working under most of the terms of the expired contract and negotiators have the ability to call a strike, a move union members approved earlier this month.

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