The National Labor Relations Board has dismissed complaints by two unions who accused FairPoint Communications of bargaining in bad faith, delivering a blow to striking workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, officials said Tuesday.
The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said they were appealing the decision and that striking workers will continue to work to force the telecommunications company back to the bargaining table.
"We remain united and committed in our fight for fairness at FairPoint," Pete McLaughlin, chairman of the unions' bargaining committee and business manager for IBEW Local 2327 in Augusta, said in a statement.
More than 1,700 workers went on strike in October after the company declared an impasse and imposed its "final offer."
The company froze the current pension and replaced it with 401(k) plans going forward. The final offer also requires workers to contribute to health costs, allows the company to hire contractors and eliminates retiree health care benefits for current workers.
FairPoint issued a statement Tuesday saying the labor board's dismissal of the union complaints proves there's "no basis to the allegations that FairPoint bargained in bad faith or that its implementation of its final contract proposals was unlawful."
But the unions said they weren't backing down as customer service complaints grow during the strike.
"The pressure on FairPoint is mounting and their contingency plan is failing. We know it, they know it, their shareholders know it, and our customers know it. We remain committed to our struggle for fair treatment from FairPoint and good service for our communities and our customers in New England," said Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400.
North Carolina-based FairPoint provides telephone service and high-speed Internet access to 17 states. The lion's share of its business is in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, where it has about 1 million lines.
FairPoint bought Verizon's landline holdings in northern New England for $2.3 billion in 2007 and filed for bankruptcy 18 months later after losing customers because of operational and integration problems. FairPoint has continued to struggle since emerging from bankruptcy in 2011.