PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — FairPoint Communications and two unions representing 1,700 workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont continued to negotiate Friday as the expiration of the existing contract looms this weekend.
Union workers are unhappy with proposed changes to health and retirement benefits, as well as changes aimed at allowing greater use of nonunion workers. The company, which has struggled since buying Verizon's landline telephone operations seven years ago, says its benefits are out of sync with industry norms.
Federal mediators arrived Friday to meet with both sides and to monitor the ongoing negotiations, said Mike Spillane, business manager for Local 2326 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
"The good news is we're still talking," Spillane said, pointing to new proposals offered to the company Friday. "As long as we're not packing up our cars and going home, then there's always hope."
The current contract expires late Saturday, and union workers already have authorized a strike. The vote gives leaders of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers the ability to call a strike, but it doesn't necessarily mean a strike is imminent.
Contract negotiations were taking place in Nashua, New Hampshire, and were to continue Saturday if necessary.
The company said it has made preparations to ensure operations in the event of a strike.
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