FairPoint Says Employees Intimidated, Trucks Blocked Amid Strike

Days after its New England union workers went on strike, FairPoint Communications this week reported disruptions to its business, including intimidation tactics.

The telecommunications company said on Monday the activity is hampering its ability to serve its customers, and a letter from FairPoint has asked union leadership to get members who are responsible for the mischief to cut it out.

Last Friday, approximately 1,700 FairPoint workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont went on strike after the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers of America reached an impasse in negotiations over employees’ contracts.

While FairPoint said it respected employees’ right to strike, the company declared it would not tolerate actions that threaten employees’ safety or customers’ service needs.

“Individuals have followed and intimidated contractors and employees, blocked our trucks, surrounded our workers on job sites, trespassed on customer property and engaged in conduct that impedes the work FairPoint is doing to meet customer needs,” the company said in an Oct. 20 statement. “This type of activity creates a dangerous environment for customers and workers. We have also confirmed reports of intimidation of small, local businesses with which we do business.”

FairPoint has received an unusually higher number of calls at some call centers, and the inquiries appear to be computer-generated and intended to impede FairPoint’s ability to respond to legitimate customer inquiries, according to the company.  

The unions represent about 1,700 of FairPoint’s 2,550 employees in northern New England. The telecom provider was negotiating with the unions for months after the workers’ previous contracts expired in August. After meeting with FairPoint representatives on Oct. 16, union leadership told members that they decided to initiate a strike because “the company refuses to negotiate.”

Last week, FairPoint spokeswoman Angelynne Beaudry said the company never proposed a reduction in base wages for current employees during the negotiations.

“We sought instead to bring the existing health care and pension benefits in line with what we believe are mainstream for employees in the region, and transition union represented employees to the same or similar benefit plans as offered to other FairPoint employees, including management,” she said in a statement. “We believe these changes are fair to our employees while enabling the company to provide modern telecommunication products and services to our customers, communities and states at a competitive price.”

Amid the strike, FairPoint has been bracing for lousy weather. The company said on Monday it anticipated heavy rains over New England for the next several days, which could possibly disrupt its systems.

“As our managers, non-union employees and contingent workforce ramp to capacity to address the needs of our customers, we are deploying all available resources to prepare for and respond to any storm-related impact,” the company said.

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