PORTLAND, Maine — FairPoint Communications intends to comply with a recent court ruling that found the company wrongfully transferred union jobs to contractors in Canada and New York in 2009 and 2010.
Last week, a panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston upheld two earlier rulings that determined FairPoint, which operates landline business in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, should return certain jobs back to northern New England.
“We are pleased with the judges’ decision in this case,” Peter McLaughlin, chairman of the bargaining council for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, or IBEW, which represents roughly 1,700 FairPoint workers in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, said in a statement. “FairPoint made big promises when it bought Verizon back in 2008 to create hundreds of jobs in our region. Instead, it has outsourced good jobs to lower-wage workers in Canada and New York in violation of the contract they negotiated with their union workers.”
The IBEW represents approximately 670 FairPoint employees in Maine, according to McLaughlin.
In an interview Wednesday, McLaughlin said the case began soon after FairPoint in 2008 acquired Verizon’s landline business in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. To get through a transition period, the company asked the union for permission to hire a contractor in Canada, and later New York, to handle some service representative work. The union agreed, McLaughlin said.
“It was only supposed to last at most for six months,” he said.
When it was clear the company had no intention of returning the work, the union pursued arbitration in 2010. An independent arbitrator in 2012 sided with the union, but FairPoint filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine to appeal the arbitrator’s decision. In January, that court upheld the arbitrator’s ruling, which FairPoint then appealed to the court in Boston. It was that court that last week sided with the union.
FairPoint could continue to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, but McLaughlin seemed doubtful it would.
“That would be the next level, but I can’t imagine they would. The ruling is pretty clear. They didn’t leave a lot of wiggle room. If they did appeal, it would be a stall tactic,” McLaughlin said. “It’s time for them to bring the work back, hire the people they’re supposed to, and move on.”
In a statement, a FairPoint spokesman said the company would not appeal the decision.
“While we are disappointed with the decision of the court, we intend to comply with the ruling,” Jeffrey Nevins, FairPoint’s spokesman, said in a statement. “We are now in the process of reviewing how best to carry out the decision.”
In a news release, the IBEW said FairPoint executives, when they purchased Verizon’s landline business, promised to create at least 675 jobs in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Instead, the company cut its overall workforce by almost 20 percent from 4,071 as of December 2008 to 3,255 as of June 2013.