FairPoint Communications, IBEW, and CWA Continue Mediation
Saturday, January, 24, 2015
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) remain locked in mediation proceedings with FairPoint Communications, representing nearly 2,000 employees of the company who have been on strike for more than three months.
Mediation between the two sides began on January 4th at the suggestion of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. It is not clear if any meetings have actually taken place, however, as neither side is willing to comment on the ongoing negotiations. The mediation is the second attempt to resolve the contract dispute, with the first one taking place in late 2014 with no result.
The strike and conflict centers on the cuts to benefits that FairPoint insists are necessary to ensure profitability. The cuts include freezing pension plans, taking health coverage away from retired workers, and having employees contribute 20% of their health care plan costs, concessions that would total about $700 million. The unions feel the cuts are far too deep, and offered a plan that totaled about $200 million. The huge gulf between the two offers made further negotiations difficult, and FairPoint legally declared an ‘impasse,’ a legal maneuver that allowed them to impose the last offered contract, and the unions sued. There has been little movement in the ongoing negotiation since, despite the two sides being officially in mediation. The hope is that holding the new mediation proceedings in Washington D.C. will provide an objective and neutral environment that will inspire negotiations.