FairPoint CEO Issues Misleading Response to Vermont Governor

Amy MasciolaBargaining, Press Release, Service and Safety, StrikeLeave a Comment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, December 17, 2014
CONTACT: Jim McNeill, 202-213-1614, Jim@FairnessAtFairpoint.com

FairPoint CEO Paul H. Sunu has issued a misleading response to Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin’s call for company to settle a fair contract

Sunu’s letter makes no mention of the more than $200 million in compromises the union has offered, including new health care premiums

Letter entirely omits the issue of outsourcing; company’s imposed terms allow the replacement of skilled workers with cut-rate contractors

North Carolina-based FairPoint offers no convincing plan that widespread service outages can be reversed

MONTPELIER — FairPoint CEO Paul H. Sunu issued a misleading letter today concerning the status of the company’s contract talks with its union workers. Sunu wrote the letter in response to Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin’s call on December 12 for the company to reach a fair deal and resolve the ongoing strike.

Sunu attempts to deflect charges against FairPoint by making a number of misleading claims about union positions. However, Sunu’s letter completely omits mention of the company’s controversial outsourcing practices, which FairPoint imposed in late August.

The unions representing the FairPoint workers — the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) — believe the key issues in the contract dispute are as follows:

  • The unions made dozens of proposals in bargaining between April and August. FairPoint negotiators — led by notorious anti-union law firm Seyfarth Shaw — rejected virtually all of those proposals before walking away from bargaining on August 27.
  • FairPoint’s initial demand was for $700 million in deep and damaging cuts. The company has never compromised on that original demand and imposed those cuts when it walked away from negotiations in August.
  • The unions have offered more than $200 million in cost-saving compromises during bargaining, including the adoption of premium sharing for their health insurance.
  • The company’s imposed terms allow it to outsource work to cut-rate contractors. This could lead to a further reduction in the company’s skilled and experienced workforce and a reliance on the sort of unqualified contractors FairPoint has hired during the strike.

“We have made tough compromises during these negotiations,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326. “We’ve always been committed to making FairPoint a profitable business. But the outsourcing they’re pushing and the savage cuts they’re insisting on would make it impossible to serve our customers. We can’t let that happen.”

Shumlin penned his December 12 letter as widespread service outages had reached crisis levels in Vermont and across northern New England. “As you and everyone in Vermont know, we have seen a significant and unacceptable rise in service quality issues in recent months,” Shumlin wrote.

Vermont’s E-911 system went down for nearly six hours on November 28 due to a felled FairPoint line. On December 11, there were widespread Internet outages in both Vermont and New Hampshire. And state officials in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have all reported a spike in customer complaints since the strike began on October 17.

“It’s clear this is a PR game to FairPoint’s executives in North Carolina,” said Don Trementozzi, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1400. “They’re trying to tell the people of New England that they’ve got the situation under control, but anyone on the ground here can see that they are jeopardizing the economy and the safety of our region.”

The negotiations for a new contract at FairPoint began in April, and from the outset FairPoint pressed to increase outsourcing, cut pay for new workers, and slash benefits for all employees.

In August, FairPoint negotiators abruptly ended negotiations and imposed its package of aggressive cuts. The workers spent nearly two more months trying to find common ground with FairPoint. But with the company refusing to negotiate, union workers launched their strike in October.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.