Four unions representing employees of Consolidated Communications, the company that bought FairPoint Communications, said Friday that workers voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new four-year contract.
The vote comes after the unions authorized leaders in July to call a strike if they could not reach an agreement on using outside contractors when the previous contract expired on Aug. 7.
The new four-year contract includes wage parity for rural workers, better protections against subcontracting and better job security. The agreement follows several months of tough negotiations, Peter McLaughlin, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2327, said.
“This contract will ensure workers are compensated fairly and that customers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont receive fast, reliable broadband internet built and installed with skilled union labor,” McLaughlin said.
The IBEW Local 2327 represents 450 workers in Maine. Two IBEW unions with 650 workers in New Hampshire and Vermont also voted, along with the representatives of the Communications Workers of America.
The new contract will put all rural and urban members in the three states in the same wage zones. Previously, rural workers were paid less. They will receive a 2 percent wage increase under the new agreement.
Workers also will get wage increases of 1.5 percent the first year and 1.75 percent each year for the remainder of the contract. The new contract has a work-from-home agreement, will not increase health insurance copays annually and contains stronger language to reduce the transfer of work to non-union workers outside of New England.
Consolidated Communications is one of the largest internet companies operating in Maine. It plans to install fast fiber internet to 11,500 rural customers starting early next year and make major upgrades to its existing network, which could significantly improve the state’s lagging broadband infrastructure.