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FairPoint Union Contracts Expire With No New Agreement

The union representing roughly 1,800 FairPoint workers in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine says its contract with the company has expired, with no agreement reached on a new one.

Federal mediators joined the negotiations as they came down to the wire, but no progress was reported by the time the contract expired on Saturday.

In a statement, FairPoint said the parties remain far apart.

“The Unions have dug in on almost all of their current benefits under contracts from a bygone era,”  FairPoint spokeswoman Ange Amores Beaudry said in a statement issued Sunday morning. 

The company argues that current union health and retirement benefits are not sustainable and it wants more flexibility to hire contract workers.

Mike Spillane, of The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Vermont says it is FairPoint that has been unresponsive to union offers.

“The company continues to say they are willing to be flexible but they continue to hold to their original proposals,” Spillane said late Saturday.

Spillane says no new negotiating sessions are scheduled, but he believes the parties will meet again soon.  He says it’s unlikely there will be a strike in the next few days.

About two hundred members of the Communications Workers of America are also negotiating with FairPoint.

Union members will continue to work under the terms of the expired contracts.

FairPoint has 2,550 employees in northern New England.

Copyright 2014 Vermont Public Radio

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.

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