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FairPoint workers will continue to work with expired contract

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 03. 2014 7:42PM

FairPoint Communications telephone workers will show up to work this week, even though their union contracts expired at midnight Sunday with no expectation that new agreements will be quickly reached, both sides said.

“We’re going forward under the status quo,” said Glenn Brackett, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2320 in Manchester. The union deals cover between 660 and 705 New Hampshire workers.

Brackett said most of the terms of the 6-year-old contract remain in effect. But the union does not have to abide by a no-strike clause, while the company does not have to honor any arbitration rulings.

About 150 IBEW workers held a vigil outside the FairPoint offices on Elm Street in Manchester Saturday night, Brackett said.

In a statement issued Sunday, FairPoint said most terms of the expired contracts, which cover approximately 1,700 of FairPoint’s 2,550 employees in northern New England, will remain in effect.

FairPoint spokeswoman Ange Amores Beaudry said the unions have rejected company proposals on most of the core issues under negotiation. Key issues include pensions, outsourcing, health care premiums, and benefits for future retirees.

“To date, the unions have rejected company proposals on most of the core issues in these negotiations,” Beaudry said in printed remarks.

Brackett said the company won’t compromise.

“These guys aren’t negotiating. They put something on the table and won’t come off it,” he said.

He said the IBEW wants FairPoint to switch its insurance coverage to an IBEW plan, which he said would save FairPoint $7 million a year.

Beaudry said FairPoint wants an agreement that will be fair to employees while enabling the company to stay competitive and facilitate its provision of modern telecommunication products and services in the region.

Brackett said the agreement is the third to be negotiated with FairPoint since it took over the telephone system in 2008. The first was when the company entered the state, the second was 19 months later, when FairPoint renegotiated union contracts after the company filed bankruptcy.

Brackett said the bankruptcy led to five hedge funds obtaining one half of company shares.

“All they’re looking for is dividends,” Brackett said. “We’re not negotiating with a phone company, we’re negotiating with wolves of Wall Street.”

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