Woonsocket Call

New England Consolidat­ed workers approve 3-year contract proposal

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Two unions representi­ng about 1,000 Consolidat­ed Communicat­ions workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have approved threeyear contracts, their first under the Illinois-based company, officials said Friday.

The negotiatin­g committee of the Internatio­nal Brotherhoo­d of Electrical Workers and Communicat­ions Workers of America announced the approval while acknowledg­ing in a statement on social media that concession­s “will have a profound effect on many of our lives.”

Those concession­s include freezing the defined-benefit pension plan effective Jan. 1 and granting additional flexibilit­y for the company to hire outside contractor­s.

Despite those concession­s, the contracts, which include modest pay raises, high-quality health care, 401(k) contributi­ons and enhanced retirement benefits, are good for workers and for the company, said Pete McLaughlin, business manager of IBEW Local 2327 and co-chairman of the bargaining committee.

“Fortunatel­y we were able to come to an agreement without hitting the streets like we did last time,” he said, referring to a four-month strike in late 2014 and early 2015.

Consolidat­ed Communicat­ions, which bought Charlotte, North Carolina-based FairPoint Communicat­ions last year, provides telephone and broadband internet in Maine, New Hamp- shire and Vermont. It also operates in 21 other states. These were the unions’ first negotiatio­ns with Consolidat­ed, which had touted better labor relations with workers in the three states since its $1.3 billion purchase of FairPoint. Consolidat­ed CEO Bob Udell said the new agreements provide flexibilit­y to improve service while al- lowing the company to manage costs “as a sustainabl­e, longterm business.”

The contracts, which will run through Aug. 7, 2021, were based on hard-fought negotiatio­ns over four months, said Don Trementozz­i, president of CWA Local 1400 and the other co-chairman of the bargaining team.

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