Workers and allies from across New England will mark Day 50 of FairPoint strike with a spirited rally in Portsmouth’s Market Square
Company’s attack on skilled workers backfiring; customer complaints against FairPoint in N.H. are six times higher than before the strike
Rally comes soon after three picketers hit in Keene; workers say it’s time for a Fair Deal for New England that ensures quality service and good jobs
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Striking workers and their allies will mark Day 50 of the strike at FairPoint Communications with a rally in Portsmouth’s Market Square. The rally today comes as service problems at FairPoint continue to mount.
In New Hampshire, customer complaints against FairPoint are running six times higher than before the strike, according to figures released on Monday by the state’s Public Utilities Commission.
“FairPoint’s attack on its skilled workers has backfired badly,” says Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320. “Their unqualified replacement workers are failing our customers, and now they’re even endangering the lives of our members.”
On Tuesday, three FairPoint strikers were hit by a replacement worker driving across a picket line in Keene, N.H. Though no one was seriously hurt, one worker was taken to the hospital with a back injury, and Keene police are conducting an investigation into the incident.
The striking workers are calling on FairPoint, which is headquartered in North Carolina, to reach a Fair Deal for New England. They say the company’s push to slash pay and benefits and outsource work to unqualified contractors would make it impossible to deliver quality service to customers.
“FairPoint provoked this strike and now they’re proving that they can’t serve their customers without us,” says Don Trementozzi, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1400. “This is what happens when you replace high-skilled workers with low-wage contractors, and it’s why we’re fighting so hard to make sure FairPoint executives can’t outsource work in the future.”
Since the strike began on October 17, FairPoint has been struggling to maintain its northern New England systems with replacement workers hired from out of state. On Monday, New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission reported that it received 164 complaints in October and 217 in November, up from 36 in September.
The negotiations for a new contract at FairPoint began in April, and from the outset company officials pressed to increase outsourcing, cut pay for new workers and slash benefits for all employees. The workers have offered more than $200 million in cost-saving compromises during the talks. But the company has not altered its initial demand for $700 million in deep and damaging cuts.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.