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

Associated Press

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.

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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.