As of Dec. 2, it's been 47 days since more than 2,000 FairPoint workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont walked off the job. The striking workers haven't seen a paycheck in seven weeks and the company cut off their health care benefits at the end of Oct.
"It's been rough. We just went through Thanksgiving and now Christmas is fast approaching," said Peter Keefe, a Splice Service Technician from Lewiston.
On Tuesday, the striking workers hoped to draw attention to their ongoing labor dispute by setting up a picket line outside a conference on health care benefits that was being co-sponsored by FairPoint at the Senator Inn in Augusta.
"We think it's a little hypocritical for them to be here sponsoring a health care conference when they ve just decimated healthcare benefits as we know it," said Keefe.
FairPoint declared an impasse back in August and imposed a contract that freezes pensions, requires workers to contribute to health care costs and gets rid of health benefits for retired workers.
That led to the walkout in October.
The workers, who are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) say their negotiating team put forward a solid health care proposal that would have saved the company $7 million in health care costs.
But FairPoint maintains that the unions' proposals are out of step with mainstream benefits in today's competitive telecom industry.
"We have to have counter-proposals that address all the core issues from health care to pensions to subcontracting," said Angelynne Beaudry, FairPoint Spokesperson.
The company has said in the past that it needs more like $700 million in concessions to remain competitive. The two sides remain far apart and no new talks are scheduled.