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Union Says No Progress In FairPoint Contract Talks

With their contract set to expire in just over a week, FairPoint Communications and the union representing workers continued their negotiations this week. 

The International Brotherhood of Electrical workers represents about 1,800 FairPoint employees in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. 

The union says members have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if necessary. 

Mike Spillane is a Vermont member of the IBEW negotiating team. Returning Friday from talks in Nashua, New Hampshire Spillane said the sides are still far apart.

“So far I haven’t got any reason to have any hope. They haven’t accepted anything that we’ve brought out. We’re still quite a ways apart,” Spillane says.

Spillane says negotiations will resume on Tuesday, but without progress between now and August 2 a strike may be necessary.

“If we’re still miles apart with no hope in sight, we may have to go out on strike to break the gridlock that we’re in,” he says.

The negotiations involve a number of issues, including health and retirement benefits.  

FairPoint says the current benefits are out of sync with industry norms.

In a statement, the company said, “Our primary objective is to reach a successful agreement and our focus remains so. We are seeking significant concessions ­ such as a freeze in the defined benefit pension plan and changes in various work rules to allow more effective customer service."

"Our expectation is that we will be at the table negotiating in good faith with a goal of reaching an agreement,” the statement said.

FairPoint says it has contingency plans in place in case there is a strike.

Representatives of the Communications Workers of America are also involved in the negotiations.  The union represents about 200 FairPoint employees.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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