Frontier Communications workers in West Virginia and Ashburn, Virginia, this weekend went on strike after several months of contract negotiations.
The 1,400 workers are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. Their contract originally was set to expire on Aug. 5, 2017, was extended until Nov. 4, and then extended again to March 3.
“We have been very clear throughout the bargaining process that our top priority is keeping good jobs in our communities,” said Ed Mooney, vice president of CWA District 2-13. “Going on strike is never easy. It’s a hardship for our members and the customers who we are proud to serve. But the job cuts at Frontier have gone too far — we know it and Frontier’s customers know it. It’s time for Frontier to start investing in maintaining and rebuilding its network in West Virginia.”
Frontier says the offer the workers turned down included: wage increases of more than $14 million; health-care benefits of more than $21,000 per employee and per year; the continuation of a profit-sharing bonus for every CWA employee; and the withdrawal of pending layoff notices. Average annual wages for the company’s union employees exceed $64,500, and more than half of all union employees earn more than $75,000 per year, it said.
“Despite the business and financial challenges it faces, Frontier has offered a very generous package with continued job security for the great majority of the workforce, minimal benefits changes, and solid wage increases without asking for any significant concessions,” said Andy Malinoski, Frontier’s communications manager.
Frontier has activated its strike contingency plan in West Virginia. The company said it is working to minimize disruptions to customer service caused by the work stoppage.
The CWA said the purpose of the strike is to “save good jobs and protect service quality.” An analysis of informal complaints filed with the West Virginia Public Service Commission shows that complaints have increased steadily during the past three years, rising 69 percent from 639 complaints in 2014 to 1,072 complaints in 2017, the union said. Since Frontier acquired Verizon’s landlines in West Virginia in 2010, the company has “cut over 500 good, middle-class jobs in the state,” it said.
“We have worked in partnership with CWA workers and improved more than 165,000 homes and businesses to bring them up to Federal Communications Commission regulations for the Connect America Fund in the last three years,” Malinoski said. “More than $500 million in network improvements since Frontier has been in West Virginia. Together we’ve made major improvements in the network.”
As of publication, no further contract talks are scheduled.