FairPoint Strike Continues After Mediation Fails - NECN


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FairPoint Strike Continues After Mediation Fails

Company provides telephone and high-speed Internet service in Maine, NH and Vt.



    FairPoint Strike Continues After Mediation Fails

    The first meeting between FairPoint Communications and union representatives in nearly three months took less than an hour Tuesday and made no progress toward ending an impasse that led to a strike by more than 1,700 workers.

    The company that provides telephone and high-speed Internet service in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont declined to modify any demands during a negotiating session convened by a federal mediator in Boston, union officials said.

    The company, which contends the old contract was out of sync with industry norms, imposed its final contract offer in late August when it declared an impasse. Workers went on strike in October.

    The contract imposed by FairPoint froze the old pension plan and replaced it with 401(k) plans going forward. The company also required workers to contribute to health care costs for the first time. Other provisions allowed the company to hire contractors and eliminated retiree health care benefits for current workers.

    Describing the company as "stubborn," the chairman of the unions' bargaining committee said FairPoint seems intent on running the company into the ground by failing to end the stalemate.

    "It's not like we're asking for huge raises, or pension increases. We understand we're going to have to do something. We just need someone to meet us halfway on this, find some common ground," said Peter McLaughlin, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2327 in Maine.

    Accusing the company of failing to bargain in good faith, the IBEW and Communications Workers of America have asked the National Labor Relations Board to order the company back to the negotiating table.

    The company had no immediate comment on Tuesday.

    The company is seeking about $700 million in contract concessions, officials have said. Union negotiators say they've agreed to cuts of about $218 million.

    McLaughlin said workers aren't going to give up.

    "Everybody is prepared for an extended strike. The alternative is to accept what they gave, and that's not much of an alternative for the members and employees," he said.

    The company has brought in outside workers to minimize customer disruptions. But the company acknowledged it's dealing with a backlog of customer service requests and asked customers two weeks ago for patience.

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