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Unions to FairPoint: Come Back to Table

Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers march near Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine, where several hundred union members rallied Monday,  Sept. 1,  2014, to call for FairPoint Communications to return to the negotiating table. The company, which provides telephone service in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, declared an impasse last week after four months of negotiations with two unions. (AP Photo/David Sharp)

Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers march near Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine, where several hundred union members rallied Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, to call for FairPoint Communications to return to the negotiating table. The company, which provides telephone service in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, declared an impasse last week after four months of negotiations with two unions. (AP Photo/David Sharp)

Portland, Maine — Hundreds of union workers chanting slogans and waving signs used a Labor Day rally in Maine’s largest city to demand that FairPoint Communications return to the negotiating table.

The workers gathered in Longfellow Square on Monday after a Labor Day breakfast sponsored by the Southern Maine Labor Council. The group demanded an end to corporate greed, and for the company to resume negotiations.

FairPoint has declared an impasse after four months of negotiations with unions representing more than 1,700 workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Unions contend the company is not bargaining in good faith. While wages remain largely unchanged, the plan freezes the existing defined benefit pension plan, rolling benefits over into a new plan. It also allows the company to hire contractors, eliminates retiree health care benefits for current employees and requires workers to share some health care costs for the first time.

On Monday, workers raised concerns about the hiring of contract workers. They fear call center jobs could be removed, and that lesser-trained contractors could take over technical jobs.

“The jobs are going to leave Maine, if they get their way,” said Steve Elrick, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, based in FairPoint’s Brunswick office.

The IBEW and Communication Workers of America have appealed to the National Labor Relations Board, asking the panel reinstate the contract that expired Aug. 2 and order FairPoint to negotiate.

A spokeswoman said the company is willing to entertain another proposal, if the unions come forward with one. The union said the company has refused to submit counter-proposals.