PORTLAND, Maine — Two unions representing about 1,000 Consolidated Communication workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have approved three-year contracts, their first under Illinois-based company, officials said Friday.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers of America announced the outcome of voting, the last of which occurred Thursday night.
Union officials said the contracts reached last weekend will protect jobs, maintain affordable health care, and provide enhanced retirement benefits. They also said an early retirement package mitigates the possibility of dozens of call center jobs being moved out of state.
It’s the first contract since Consolidated bought FairPoint Communications last year. Workers struck against FairPoint for four months in late 2014 and early 2015.
Illinois-based Consolidated Communications provides telephone and broadband internet in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It also operates in 21 other states.
These were the unions’ first negotiations with Consolidated Communications, which had touted better labor relations with workers in the three states since its purchase of FairPoint. Workers’ last contracts with FairPoint were preceded by a four-month strike that began in October 2014.
Union workers were focused on job security and expressed concerned about the company’s plan to make greater use of subcontractors.
The company contended it needed flexibility when it comes to hiring subcontractors to expedite repair, maintenance and installations.
The last strike began after North Carolina-based FairPoint froze pensions, imposed pay reductions on new workers, eliminated retiree health insurance and allowed the company to hire more outside workers. The agreement that ended the strike allowed employees to keep their defined benefit pension plans but there were concessions on company contributions, health care costs and other issues.
With its purchase of FairPoint, Consolidated doubled its fiber optic network and creating a company with operations in 24 states. The $1.3 billion transaction was completed last summer.
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