Unions dismiss FairPoint offer to return to work

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PORTLAND (AP) — Striking workers dismissed an invitation Monday by FairPoint to return to work in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, saying the company was growing desperate because of service problems.

The North Carolina-based telecommunications company sent out letters last week to more than 1,700 striking workers reiterating its position that the old contract was out of sync with the rest of the industry and telling workers that they were welcome to return to work under terms imposed by the company.

Diane Winton, president of Local 2327 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said the letter suggests contractors hired during the strike “can’t get it done.”

“They’re trying to put a happy face on this, but things aren’t going well,” said Scott Boudreau, a striking data service technician who joined Winton in picketing outside the company’s state headquarters in Portland. “We’re not going to go back until they start bargaining in good faith.”

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Mike Reed, FairPoint Communications president in Maine, said the letters were intended to combat misinformation, including the notion that striking workers are barred from work. “There is no lockout. If they want to return to the workforce, then they need only to call their supervisor,” he said Monday.

The company imposed its final contract offer in late August when it declared an impasse. Workers went on strike in October.

The contract froze the old pension plan and replaced it with 401(k) plans going forward. The company also is requiring workers to contribute to health care costs for the first time. Other provisions eliminate retiree health care benefits for current workers and allow the company to hire contractors.

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