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Latest News - October 2014

November 4, 2014
Fair Point, striking unions to resume bargaining with help of federal mediator
Source: Bangor Daily News
By: Darren Fishell

PORTLAND, Maine — Union negotiators and Fair Point Communications officials will return to bargaining on Nov. 18 in a meeting called by a federal mediator in Boston.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers of America, representing about 800 workers in Maine, said the meeting was arranged to “jump-start” negotiations over a contract that expired in August.

Angelynne Beaudry, a spokeswoman for Fair Point, said the meeting is part of the normal federal mediation process and that “no assumptions should be made” about what will come from the meeting.

The company declared an impasse in those talks and imposed its last contract offer on employees on Aug. 28, and the unions decided to strike on Oct. 17.

Before the contract for the former Verizon employees expired in early August, both parties said they remained far apart on certain terms, such as whether the company would have to gain approval from the unions to hire contract workers for certain jobs.

“We’ll be in Boston ready to find common ground, and we urge the company to return to the table in the same spirit,” said Peter McLaughlin, a lead negotiator for the IBEW.

Beaudry said she hopes the union comes to the table with counter-proposals that address the issues upon which earlier negotiations deadlocked, including the dispute over bringing in contract workers and shifting to a health care plan with higher deductibles.

The unions said the strike comes as the company faces a backlog of service calls. Beaudry said in an earlier interview that service delays are possible as Fair Point brings on its replacement workers.

One customer, Donna Gravely, contacted the Bangor Daily News last week saying that she was unable to get through to the company after being put on hold multiple times. On Monday, she said that the company had contacted her and resolved the request to disconnect her service before she and her husband move to a new home.

Another Internet customer of Fair Point, John Barron, said Monday that his Internet service remained out after he lost that service Oct. 21.

The backlog of service complaints for the company is unclear as state regulators require service quality reports on a quarterly basis for parts of the company’s landline service. The reports covering any time during the strike are not due until January.

The company also upped financial pressure on the union members last week, canceling health insurance policies after employees stopped working.

The unions said they proposed more than $200 million in concessions and the company sought about $700 million from the unions that represent about 2,000 workers across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.



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