FairPoint union workers at the State House in Augusta standing up for workers rights
by Ramona du Houx
FairPoint Communications announced May 14, 2015 that it will lay off 219 employees in its northern New England operations, which represents more than 10 percent of its workforce in the region. Members of both the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont will be affected.
The announcement comes on the heals of a nine month strike. Some ask if this action was in retribution because workers rights were justly upheld in the negotiation settlement.
Union leaders expressed disappointment at the news and said that the cuts will further erode already severely compromised service quality for the region's telecommunications customers.
"FairPoint has failed to meet service quality benchmarks for years, and cutting its skilled workforce by more than 10 percent will only make matters worse," said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Maine. "We are disgusted by this company's total disregard for its employees and customers."
FairPoint has consistently sought to avoid being held accountable for service quality failures in the region. The company is supporting bills in the Maine legislature that would eliminate its obligation to provide service to customers who rely solely on a landline, or Provider of Last Resort (POLR) customers. It also supports an amendment that would eliminate the Maine Public Utilities Commission's ability to investigate service quality failures or to enforce standards. An investigation of the company's service quality failures is ongoing in Vermont.
"This announcement is deeply disappointing and illustrates yet again that FairPoint executives are beholden to the greedy Wall Street hedge funds who own the company, not to our customers," said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400.
Union leaders assured members that they would meet with the company immediately to ensure that the layoff process is implemented according to the collective bargaining agreements. "We will continue to fight these cuts and support our members and their families through this difficult time," said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire.
"Our hearts go out to the hard-working men and women who will lose their jobs because of FairPoint's mismanagement and greed," said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont. "Many of these folks have devoted years to a career with the phone company and they are proud of it. They are valued members of our communities who were willing to make incredible sacrifices during our historic strike. They fought not just for their own jobs, but for the quality service that our customers deserve. They don't deserve this."