PORTLAND, Maine — About 1,700 FairPoint employees in northern New England returned to work Wednesday after a 131-day strike that, combined with harsh winter weather, caused service delays for some customers.
“It’s been a great first day back,” FairPoint spokeswoman Angelynne Amores Beaudry wrote in an email late Wednesday, adding the company would retain some of the contractors it hired on a temporary basis during the strike as the union members return to work.
“To resume normal operations as soon as possible, our near-term plan is to utilize our returning workforce with contractors,” Beaudry wrote. “This will also help us address any remaining service and installation issues.”
Union officials were not available late Wednesday for comment on the first day back to work, but the state’s AFL-CIO congratulated workers on their return and greeted several workers in Bangor as they returned to work at 59 Park St.
“These workers should be very proud of their fight for fairness. We salute their courage and perseverance,” AFL-CIO director Matt Schlobohm said. “Their struggle was not only for themselves but for all workers.”
Through the negotiations, the company sought to reduce employees’ health care benefits, saying they were out of line with those for similar jobs in the telecommunications industry and with FairPoint management plans.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers of America estimated the company wanted about $700 million in concessions for the terms of the contract that ends Aug. 4, 2018, compared to their proposal for about $200 million in concessions.
Peter McLaughlin, a lead negotiator for and business manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Maine, said Monday the final contract landed somewhere between those figures.