Vermont governor: 'Enough is enough' on phone company strike, outages

Associated Press

A rash of recent Internet and phone outages prompted Gov. Peter Shumlin to call Friday for Vermont's dominant landline phone carrier and about 1,700 striking workers to resolve their labor dispute.

A FairPoint Communications spokeswoman and a union leader responded with a fresh round of recriminations.

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"Enough is enough," Shumlin wrote to the North Carolina-based company's CEO, Paul Sunu. "Come back to the table; listen; and compromise. I will urge the unions to do likewise ... Failing to negotiate at all is proving to be a losing strategy for FairPoint, as your customers and your state partners lose faith in the company's ability to serve."

The letter came a day after the company's broadband Internet service was knocked offline for customers throughout Vermont and in parts of New Hampshire. It came two weeks after a Nov. 28 outage in which Vermont's 911 emergency calling system was out of service for large parts of the state due to problems on FairPoint's network.

Shumlin said he would urge the unions representing FairPoint workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2326 and Communication Workers of America, Local 1400, to compromise as well. "I understand that both sides must work to find common ground," he wrote.

FairPoint spokeswoman Angelynne Beaudry said the company had made its last proposal on Aug. 28.

"We've have always indicated to the union leadership to share with us counter proposals that meaningfully addresses all of the core issues," Beaudry wrote in an email. "Our last proposals were implemented on Aug. 28. The ball is in their court. It is the unions who chose to go on strike. They will choose when to return."

Mike Spillane, business manager with the IBEW local, called Beaudry "a liar," saying FairPoint had demanded $700 million in concessions last spring and refused to move from its position since then. He said the unions had offered $212 million in concessions, including savings for the company in health care and pensions.

FairPoint has had a bumpy ride since it acquired landline phone networks serving Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine from Verizon in 2007. It declared bankruptcy in October 2009, emerging 13 months later. It has lost business since the acquisition to newer types of telecommunications, including cellphones and Internet-based phones.