FairPoint Workers in Maine Stage 'Informational' Pickets
PORTLAND, Maine - Workers with FairPoint Communications staged informational pickets in locations across the state today, with new contract talks scheduled for tomorrow and the company and its unions still far apart. The unions' current contract expired Aug. 2. Workers have voted to authorize a strike, but have so far elected to stay on the job in hopes that a deal can be reached.
Rory Devine works for FairPoint as a technician in the Bangor area. He's a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2327, one of two unions struggling to negotiate a new contract with the company. Devine and a handful of other workers spent two hours walking back and forth, early Tuesday morning, in front of the company's office on Odlin Rd in Bangor.
"We're doing an informational picket," Devine said. "We just want everyone to know, the public to know, that we're fighting to keep local jobs, to keep the company from outsourcing labor."
The IBEW and the Communications Workers of America say FairPoint wants to retain the right to continue outsourcing because it saves the company money.
"They had promised 600 jobs when they bought Verizon. We still haven't gotten those jobs," said Krista Jensen, a service representative at FairPoint who took part in an informational picket in Portland. "Our contract expired August 2nd, and we start negotiations again Wednesday. We're looking for a fair contract."
"Currently, the parties remain far apart," says Angie Beaudry, head of corporate communications for FairPoint. The unions says FairPoint wants to freeze pension contributions, eliminate retiree health care and make changes to workers' current medical coverage. Beaudry says the company emerged from bankruptcy in 2011 and must seek concessions to save money. "Our main goal, during these negotiations, is to bring the contract into the norms of the 21st century," she says.
In July, nearly 2,000 FairPoint workers in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine voted to authorize a strike. So far, though, no date for a walkout has been set. For now, the unions say they'd rather keep talking in an effort to reach agreement on a new contract.
The company has its own incentive to work towards a deal. FairPoint reported a loss of nearly $23 million in the 2nd quarter of this year, and a strike could put even more financial pressure on the company. Still, the company has said it has plans in place to keep phone and Internet service to New England customers up and running should a walk out occur.