FairPoint halts health coverage for striking phone workers in northern New England

A FairPoint Communications spokeswoman is confirming that the company has stopped providing health coverage for its striking workers.

Spokeswoman Angelynne Beaudry said Saturday the strikers can continue their health coverage under a federal law that goes by the acronym COBRA, but they must pay for it themselves.

Some 2,000 unionized workers in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine went on strike Oct. 16 after months of stalled contract talks.

The company is seeking about $700 million in contract concessions. Union negotiators want to limit their losses to about $200 million.

Health premiums have been a big sticking point in the talks. The company now pays 100 percent of monthly health premiums and wants to shift about 20 percent of that cost onto workers.