FairPoint Communications and the two unions representing more than 1,700 workers across Northern New England have failed to agree on a contract, after months of negotiations which began in April.
The company says the unions have rejected the company's proposals.
“There has been little or no movement on pensions, retiree medical for active employees or subcontracting, issues which are key to reaching new contracts.” says Fairpoint spokesperson, Angelynne Beaudry.
“The unions have dug in on almost all of their current benefits under contracts from a bygone era,” which she says “results in no movement toward an agreement which will be fair to our employees while enabling the company to provide modern telecommunication products and services successfully to our customers, communities and states.”
But Peter McLaughlin from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2327 in Maine, describes the company's proposal to cut $702 million from worker benefits as draconian, and he says the company is refusing to discuss the union's counter proposals, including one scenario where the union would take a $180 million cut in benefits.
"This is the most bizarre negotiation we have ever been involved with, and I've been doing this for 30 years." says McLaughlin. He says that IBEW has successfully negotiated contracts with Verizon, Frontier, CenturyLink and other big name companies, "but this group just refuses to get into a meaningful dialogue about the issues that they want to cut. They ask us for proposals and say they'll evaluate them, but they don't offer any input on the way back. It's either their way- or no way. And that's a hard way to negotiate."
McLaughlin says he remains hopeful that a deal can be reached, but he says the unions have strike authorization from membership. After a cooling off period this week, he says a mediator will set a date for talks to continue.
Meanwhile, workers will remain on the job under the old contract.
Negotiators broke off talks late Saturday night about an hour before the contract expired at midnight.