12.17.14

Senator Patrick Leahy’s Comment On The Vermont Congressional Delegation’s Letter To FairPoint CEO Paul Sunu

On Tuesday Vermont Congressional Delegation – Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) -- wrote to CEO of FairPoint Paul Sunu urging the company to return to the bargaining table to bring an end to the ongoing strike.  Phone and internet outages during the strike have caused a spike in customer complaints to the Vermont Public Service Board.  Earlier this fall Leahy called on both the company and its workers to return to the table to negotiate in good faith. 

Leahy, who continues to believe that a lengthy impasse offers no benefit to Vermont customers, FairPoint workers or the company, on Tuesday said:  “Vermonters are increasingly frustrated by the ongoing standoff at FairPoint.  From the start it has been clear that the way to resolve this impasse is for all sides to return to the table to negotiate a new contract.  The rising number of service issues since this began only serve to heighten the stakes and the need to return to the table.  I renew my call for the company and the unions to meet face to face to work toward ensuring the resumption of the level of service that Vermonters expect and deserve.”

[The text of the Vermont Congressional Delegation’s letter is below:]

December 16, 2014

Paul H. Sunu

Chief Executive Officer

FairPoint Communications

521 E Morehead Street, Suite 500

Charlotte, NC 28202

Dear Mr. Sunu:

It has now been 61 days since the beginning of the FairPoint strike and 136 days since FairPoint’s labor contract expired. 

We are extremely disappointed that FairPoint management has not come back to the bargaining table with any meaningful concessions to end this strike. It is becoming increasingly clear to Vermonters that management is more concerned with the interests of corporate owners of FairPoint  than negotiating a reasonable agreement that is fair to your workers and customers.

It is imperative that FairPoint returns to the bargaining table as soon as possible, negotiates in good faith, and allows its experienced and dedicated employees to get back to work.  We are prepared to do whatever we can to help FairPoint’s workers and management reach a compromise in these very difficult times

Failure to reach a fair agreement with your workers is not only hurting them, it is negatively affecting your customers and the services that you are required to provide.  Since the strike began, Vermont’s Department of Public Service has received more than 600 complaints from FairPoint’s customers. 

A November 28 equipment failure caused an almost six-hour outage of Vermont’s E-911 system, resulting in nearly 100 missed calls from Vermonters trying to reach emergency dispatchers at the Vermont State Police, Montpelier Police, and Vermont Gas.  It is no exaggeration to say that FairPoint’s failure to report, respond and repair the damage in a timely manner literally endangered the lives and property of Vermonters.  That is completely unacceptable.

In fact, your company’s poor response to that incident has us seriously questioning how FairPoint can possibly fulfill the obligations of the recently awarded $10 million contract to provide Enhanced 911 services for Vermont for the next five years.  This service is no small matter – it is critical to the health and safety of Vermonters. Given the inadequate service you now provide, why should Vermonters believe you can adequately provide E-911 in the future?

Most recently, a December 12 hardware failure during routine maintenance – reportedly by outsourced contractors – caused a widespread Internet outage across Vermont and New Hampshire, affecting tens of thousands who rely on their Internet connections for safety, education, healthcare or business.

These are just some examples of how FairPoint’s refusal to settle with the union and bring back its experienced workforce has created chaos here in Vermont.  In New Hampshire, there have been many similar reports of customer complaints and public safety system failures.

We urge you to get back to the bargaining table, negotiate in good faith, and agree to a reasonable compromise that both parties can accept. 

Sincerely,

PATRICK LEAHY                      BERNARD SANDERS               PETER WELCH United States Senator                   United States Senator                   United States Representative

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