FairPoint Walks Away From Bargaining Process, Declares Impasse

Unions Accuse Company of Federal Labor Law Violations

Manchester, NH–Unions representing nearly 2,000 employees of FairPoint Communications in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont met with the company on August 27 in Nashua, NH. The unions made a comprehensive proposal despite the company’s rejection of several earlier proposals.

The company then waited several hours before notifying the unions by email that the parties are at impasse and that the company would impose its last contract proposals at 12:01 a.m. on August 28.

“We strongly disagree with the company. We have not reached impasse. The company should stay at the table and continue to work with us to reach an acceptable agreement,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2327 in Augusta and chair of the unions’ bargaining committee.

The unions have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the company of violating federal law by not bargaining in good faith.

“We are deeply disappointed that FairPoint has walked away from the bargaining process,” said Don Trementozzi, President of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400. “We have worked tirelessly for months to negotiate an agreement that is fair to our members, our customers, and the company. We believe the company never intended to reach an agreement with us, but has been pushing towards this outcome all along.”

According to union leaders, the company has rejected every significant proposal the union has put forward since bargaining began in April and has refused to offer any counter proposals since before the contract expired on August 2.

“The company has refused to bargain with us, and their negotiators have even attempted to intimidate and bully us throughout the process,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in Manchester, NH. “But our members will not be intimidated by this company. They are determined to stand up for good jobs and our customers.”

Union leaders say FairPoint management wants to outsource hundreds of good jobs in Northern New England to low wage, out-of-state contractors. The company’s proposals would be devastating for communities that depend on well-trained and experienced workers to build and maintain their landlines, cell towers, DSL, and even 911 systems.

“FairPoint’s employees are some of the best trained, most experienced telecommunications workers in this country,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Burlington, VT. “But FairPoint executives are determined to outsource their work to low road contractors no matter the impact on customers and our communities. We will continue to fight their attempts to outsource our future.”

The union bargaining team will meet with its attorneys and other key advisors on Thursday morning to assess the situation and decide on next steps. In the meantime, the union has notified all members to continue working until further notice.

IBEW System Council T9 represents nearly 1,700 FairPoint employees in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. CWA Local 1400 represents nearly 300 employees in the three states.

IBEW Photographers Terminate Contract with WMUR Over Fair and Equal Treatment.

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WMUR Photographers on the job at a local press conference

On Wednesday August 20th IBEW Local 1228 sent notice to WMUR Station Manager Jeff Bartlett that they were terminating the Contract effective August 30. The move was made so that the Photographers can legally launch a public awareness campaign and to engage in concerted actions if needed.

The Photographer/Editors have been in Negotiations with the Hearst owned WMUR since October of 2013and one of the main points of bargaining has been the pension plan that other Union and non-Union Employees enjoy at the Station.

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WMUR Photographers on the job during a snowstorm

“Since 2005, virtually all other Employees at WMUR have been allowed to participate in a 401K and a Pension Plan. All except for the Photographers. This is wrong and needs to finally be addressed.” said Local 1228 Business Manager Fletcher Fischer. “All we are asking for is equal treatment for the Employees that capture and deliver the news, every day. But the Hearst Corporation who owns WMUR has consistently refused saying they ‘have no appetite for it’. How ridiculous. These Employees risk their physical and mental health daily to report the news including politics, tragedies, heart wrenching events and stories of hope from all over New Hampshire. They work side by side with first responders, shoot the video and edit these stories to inform and educate the citizens of New Hampshire. They generate the revenue Hearst enjoys from this station and deserve equal treatment in retirement benefits.”

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WMUR Photographers on the job at a house fire

Hearst is one of the largest diversified communications companies in the world. Its major interests include 15 daily and 36 weekly newspapers and more than 300 magazines worldwide; 29 television stations through Hearst Television, Inc., which reach a combined 18% of U.S. viewers; ownership in leading cable networks, including A+E and ESPN. For the third year in a row, privately held Hearst is projecting record earnings, as well as record revenue of nearly $10 billion. Yet we have been told that they cannot afford to put 13 photographers into the Pension Plan that other Union members are in at the Station. It is unconscionable that such a wealthy corporation refuses to do the honorable thing and treat all their WMUR workers alike.

CWA-IBEW Fairpoint Workers Are Ready To Strike When The Time Comes

Despite working past contract expiration,
FairPoint employees can still strike at will

Union leaders say company still refusing to compromise on any proposal

On Saturday night, just before the midnight expiration of contracts covering nearly 2,000 FairPoint workers across Northern New England, leaders of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T9 and Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 announced that their members would continue working and not go on strike. According to union leaders, negotiations will continue and employees will be covered by most provisions of the expired contracts. However, the unions can now call a strike or the company could lock workers out at any time without prior notice.

Union leaders and management have been in bargaining over a new contract since April, and negotiations have been tense from the start. In the last two weeks, the company has resorted to increasingly aggressive tactics meant to intimidate workers. Union leaders say this demonstrates management’s lack of commitment to reaching a fair agreement. In addition to posting new “no trespassing” signs and spray-painting strike lines on the pavement at many company locations, management went as far as housing strike-breaking replacement workers at the same hotel where bargaining is taking place—an open and hostile attempt to intimidate union leaders.

“They are trying to bully us into submitting to their demands,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in Manchester, NH. “But we will not be bullied, and we’ll continue fighting for our families and our communities as long as we have to.”

Union negotiators have put forward several proposals that would save the company over $180 million. The company has rejected these and every other cost-saving proposal that the unions have made.

Union leaders say they are deeply concerned about management’s demand to be able to replace local, well-trained workers with low-wage, out-of-state contractors. “Most of the current employees have been working for the phone company for decades and we know our customers and our systems better than any outside contractor ever will,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Augusta, Maine. “Customers will suffer if the company gets its way. But management cares more about cutting costs and giving that money to their hedge fund owners than in investing in our communities.”

“Our unions have shown a willingness to compromise from the start,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400. “But it looks to us like the company’s strategy from the beginning has been to lock out workers so they can replace them with out-of-town contractors. It’s a blatant attempt to gut good jobs in this region. Our members are unified and have the support of many allies and community members. We will not stand by and let this corporation and its Wall Street cronies get away with it.”

FairPoint Strike On Hold As Talks Continue — From InZane Times

 

Image by Arnie Alpert

Image by Arnie Alpert

A strike by Fairpoint workers is still possible but negotiations have not ended, a union spokesperson announced an hour short of the strike deadline this evening.  “Make no mistake, this fight is not

Image by Arnie Alpert

Image by Arnie Alpert

over,” Glenn Brackett of the IBEWtold a hundred or so union members and allies outside Fairpoint’s downtown Manchester office at 11 pm. “We will continue to mobilize until we get a contract that’s fair.”

Brackett said workers should return to work but that a strike could be called at any time.  Terms and conditions of the expired contract will remain in effect while negotiations continue.

“The company has been very unresponsive to many of the major proposals we have made,” Bracket said, adding that the company’s attitude has been dismissive and antagonistic.  

 

Image by Arnie Alpert

Image by Arnie Alpert

He explained that the company had turned down a union proposal that would have saved the company millions of dollars.  

Fairpoint workers are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications Workers of America.

 

 

 

No Strike Yet. IBEW And CWA Members Stand Ready To Strike Against FairPoint

Fairness at Fairpoint Vigil Last night FairPoint workers and labor supporters gathered to hold a “candle light vigil” for the IBEW and CWA contract.  In Manchester nearly 100 union members and labor supporters showed up.  We filled the street corner in front of the FairPoint building on Elm Street with people chanting and holding signs. 

We were all gathered to hear to the news from the IBEW/CWA negotiating team. Business Agent Glenn Brackett arrived around 11 pm and read the following statement: 

Statement by IBEW System Council T9 and CWA Local 1400
August 2, 2014

The Union and the Company have not reached a new collective bargaining agreement.

We will be working under the terms and conditions of the existing contract.

Your bargaining team is committed to continue negotiating until we reach a fair and equitable contract. 

This process has been long and grueling, and the company has been unresponsive to major proposals that the union has made. They have continued to be antagonistic and dismissive of all attempts to reach a fair and equitable agreement. 

We retain the right to strike and to do so without notice. Make no mistake this fight is not over and it is essential we continue to mobilize our membership.

As it stands right now, FairPoint workers will continue to work under the existing rules of their current contract.  They can go out on strike at any time, but have chosen to hold off on that for now.  

Kelly Upham-Torosian District VP for NH AFLCIO , Glenn Brackett is Business Manager IBEW, Mark MacKenzie NH AFLCIO President

Kelly Upham-Torosian District VP for NH AFLCIO , Glenn Brackett is Business Manager IBEW, Mark MacKenzie NH AFLCIO President

Stay strong brothers and sisters, we are all behind you.  

Call me if you choose to strike, I will happily walk the line with you.

UPDATED – 10:05 Am

Fairness at FairPoint just sent out this guidance for members to better understand what this current situation means.

The Union and the Company have not reached a new collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, the unions have decided to continue to work beyond expiration, without a contract, in order to fight for our bargaining objectives:

* Negotiations will continue. The bargaining committee is committed to continue negotiating until we reach a fair and equitable contract.

* Members will still earn a paycheck.

* Members will be working under the terms and conditions of the existing collective bargaining agreement. All benefits, including health care and pension, will remain in effect.

* The grievance procedure continues but arbitration may not. However, disciplinary actions can be negotiated at the bargaining table.

* Members have the right to participate in ”concerted activity.” This means that one person speaking for a group, or more than two people, can act “for mutual aid or protection.”

* The union still has the right to strike at any time.

Here are a few other pictures from last night.

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Also Fairness At FairPoint posted great pictures from last nights “vigils” around New England.  Here is an example of one from Maine.

Maine Labor Advocates To Show Movie SALT OF THE EARTH in Solidarity For IBEW-CWA FairPoint Workers

In an expression of solidarity with the IBEW and CWA workers at FairPoint Communications who are struggling for a fair contract, the Community Union of Ellsworth & Hancock County has organized a public showing of the movie Salt of the Earth on July 29.

SALT OF THE EARTH
Tuesday July 29th, 7:00pm
Ellsworth Unitarian Universalist Church
121 Bucksport Rd.

Join the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ellsworth’s Peace & Social Action Committee, Community Union of Ellsworth & Hancock County, IBEW Local 2327, CWA Local 1400, Maine State Association of Letter Carriers, Maine AFL-CIO, Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine, for a free showing of the movie “Salt Of The Earth.”

For more information call 667-4877

Share this flyer with your friends by clicking here for Facebook or here for Twitter.  Also you can download this PDF version of the flyer to post at your worksite or email to your friends.

SALT OF THE EARTH PNH

FairPoint Employees To Hold Strike Authorization Vote

Fairness at Fairpoint BannerUnion leaders hope to reach agreement before contract expires August 2

Augusta, ME—Leaders of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 and Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 have scheduled a strike authorization vote for July 11-13 to take place across the FairPoint service area. The two unions represent nearly 2,000 employees of FairPoint Communications across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Their contracts expire on August 2nd and union representatives have been in negotiations with management since April 25th.

“Our members don’t want to strike – they want to continue working for their customers and families,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire, one of the three locals that comprise System Council T-9. “Unfortunately, management is unwilling to offer any proposal other than ones they themselves describe as requiring ‘deep, painful, significant concessions’ from workers.”

A strike authorization vote is a necessary precursor to a work stoppage, but does not require the union members actually go on strike. Such a decision could be made later by union leadership. Leaders expect members of both IBEW and CWA in Northern New England to vote overwhelmingly in favor of the strike authorization.

FairPoint workers say they are not just fighting to protect good jobs in their communities but to ensure the best service to customers across Northern New England. They say the company is insisting on the unlimited ability to hire low-wage temporary workers from out of state to do their work. “When companies hire outside contractors to do the work of skilled, local employees, customers are the ones who suffer,” said Brackett.

“Our members want nothing more than to continue working to provide the best service possible to our customers,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400, which consists of members across Northern New England. “Unfortunately, management continues to insist on deep cuts that we strongly believe will hurt consumers and the hard-working employees who have repeatedly saved this company, while the Wall Street hedge fund owners of FairPoint line their pockets.”

The IBEW Is Organizing Workers In One Of The Most Dangerous Jobs In New England

Every worker deserves to have their voice heard in the workplace, and when it comes to the safety of workers, this is a life and death situation.  The IBEW is working to organize tree trimmers who clear branches from power lines throughout New England.

From the video description:

“Tree-trimming is one of the most dangerous jobs out there, so having a voice on the job is vital. Hear from some New England tree-trimmers who found their voice with the IBEW.”

FairPoint employees attend annual meeting and claim part of company’s contract proposal violates federal law


Fairness at Fairpoint BannerLocal community and union members support Northern New England telecom workers at rally

Charlotte, NC—Employees of Charlotte-based FairPoint Communications traveled from Northern New England to attend the company’s annual shareholders meeting today. The employees—members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA)—came to address top executives and the Board of Directors over concerns they have about the company’s most recent contract proposal. The collective bargaining agreement between FairPoint and 2,000 IBEW and CWA members expires August 2nd.

According to union leaders, the company’s proposed new hire wage rates are, in many cases, below minimum wage levels by as much as 31%. Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW 2327, asked management, “Are you aware that your negotiators are therefore asking the unions to agree to wage levels that violate federal and state laws?”

Union members also expressed concern about rising executive compensation at the same time that management has proposed steep cuts to employee pay and benefits and cut jobs. “Company contract proposals want to enforce poverty wages, cut pensions, and slash health care,” said Serina DeWolfe, a member of CWA Local 1400. “Since 2011 our CEO [Paul Sunu] has seen his compensation increase by more than 37%. We want to know why the Board rewarded Mr. Sunu so handsomely even as management eliminated the jobs of hundreds of our co-workers and now proposes to pay new hires poverty wages,” she said.

After the meeting, the FairPoint employees were joined by dozens of local allies for a rally outside the downtown Charlotte hotel where the meeting was held. “We believe every working person deserves respect and a fair deal. FairPoint, a company based right here in North Carolina but owned largely by Wall Street hedge funds, is attempting to destroy good jobs in Northern New England. We came out today to support our brothers and sisters who traveled more than 1,000 miles to demand justice,” said Ashley Howard, a Trustee of the Southern Piedmont Central Labor Council.

Charlotte-based FairPoint Communications is the primary landline telephone provider in Northern New England. The IBEW System Council T-9 includes Locals 2320, 2326, and 2327 and represents approximately 1,700 FairPoint employees in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. The Communications Workers of America Local 1400 represents approximately 300 FairPoint employees in the three states.

IBEW and CWA Open Negotiations Looking For “Fairness At FairPoint”

Fairness at Fairpoint Banner

Joint statement from Peter McLaughlin, IBEW System Council T-9 President, and Don Trementozzi, CWA Local 1400 President, on the start of bargaining with FairPoint

As we open bargaining today, the IBEW and the CWA understand that both the Union and the Company must resolve many issues before our current agreement expires Saturday, August 2nd at Midnight.

Fairpoint Workers The new contract must provide job security, adequate wages and benefits, safe and reasonable working conditions, and a secure retirement that reward and incentivize this company’s single most valuable asset, our members and your employees.

The Union and your workers hope and expect that the Company basically wants the same things: a safe, healthy work environment; quality products for the customer, and the ability to make money.

When they worked for Verizon, the hard working women and men of the IBEW and CWA in these three northern states were recognized as the finest workers in the entire company footprint. You name it . . . productivity, attendance, or sales.

These proud telephone workers are a big part of this Company’s renewed success. If not for their experience and ability to overcome critical shortcomings in the operational systems that were implemented after cutover, we would not be here talking today. As their Representatives, we expect them to be treated with respect throughout these negotiations and that their value is recognized as a result of these efforts.

The Unions have kept abreast of the industry trends. We obviously recognize the Company needs to survive and prosper in order for our members to have a place to work.  At the same time, we will work diligently to protect bargaining unit work.

I want to make it clear, though, that there will be no harmony in the work places of FairPoint should the company make unreasonable demands, demands that would potentially wipe out years of gains from those who fought the fights before us.

Fairpoint Workers at Lewiston ME garage

Fairpoint Workers at Lewiston ME garage

When given the opportunity, our members have responded to every challenge given them. Be it Fiber to the Tower, NGN, or school and libraries projects. They look forward to new work opportunities brought on by FairPoint’s investment in technology and new product offerings.

For an all-too-brief period, the Unions were able to partner with FairPoint to work through and resolve Union/Management Concerns.  We are not only willing, but we’re eager, to do so again. Our ability to partner with the Company has been non-existent over the past couple of years. FairPoint has kept the Union at arm’s length and dragged its feet to meet with us in contractually binding meetings.

Hopefully, through these negotiations, we’ll be able to turn the page.  We must find solutions that work for both sides and I am confident that we can.

The Union is committed to a respectful and meaningful collective bargaining process. We believe it is the mutual interest of us all to reach a fair and equitable collective bargaining agreement.

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