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Feb
2015
20

Four-Month Strike Results in FairPoint Contract; CWA, IBEW Members Receive High Praise from Electeds

Fairpoint Strike ends IBEW

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A tentative agreement has been reached between FairPoint Communications and more than 1,700 union members affiliated with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). The workers had been on strike against the telecom giant since October 17th.  

On Thursday, the unions and the company issued a joint statement, saying the contract “will provide employees with wages and benefits that are among the best in northern New England.” It also asserts that “the agreements permit the company to achieve a much more competitive position in the marketplace.”  

The two parties had been meeting at the behest of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for the past month.  In a news release, that organization’s acting director, Allison Beck, said: “Negotiators for both sides faced difficult issues that divided them, and through their perseverance and commitment to the process, they were able to bridge the gaps and resolve their longstanding dispute.”

This weekend the unions will vote to approve the deal.  The votes begin at 9AM in Bangor and Portland, Maine and are scheduled to finish at 9AM on Sunday in Augusta, ME and Burlington, Vermont. FairPoint workers are expected to be back on the job by Wednesday, February 25th.  

Speaking to the Associated Press, Mike Spillane, Business Manager of the local IBEW union in Burlington said both sides made compromises in order to reach a deal: “There are things that you like and things that you need. We got what we needed.  We’ll put it out to members. They’ll be pleased with some of the things in there.”

The resolve of the workers was tested as they stood on the picket line through a relentless New England winter, and they were rewarded.  While FairPoint played hardball and used replacement workers who had trouble keeping day-to-day operations running smoothly. Service quality reports provided to the Maine Public Utilities Commission revealed a sharp spike in the number of landline telephone service calls that went unaddressed for 24 hours.  The state of New Hampshire temporarily held up a $13 million contract with FairPoint due to the complaints.  

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who long urged the two parties to come to an agreement, said the news was “good for Vermont”.

“I’m glad the long wait for the workers and their families is coming to an end,” Shumlin said in a statement, “and that FairPoint will have a better chance to succeed in its competitive industry under this new agreement.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also praised the agreement, and the union members more specifically:

“I applaud the extraordinary courage of the FairPoint workers,” Sanders said in a statement. “They have stood together month after month in opposition to a massive assault on decent wages and benefits. Their efforts deserve the thanks of all Vermonters.”

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