The Times West Virginian

Local News

May 6, 2014

CWA, Frontier continuing labor negotiations

FAIRMONT — Communications Workers of America and Frontier Communications are continuing their efforts to negotiate a labor contract.

In July 2010, Frontier purchased Verizon’s markets in 14 states,  including West Virginia, according to a press release from Frontier. Information from CWA explains that the labor contract that is currently being negotiated includes the employees who formerly worked for Verizon and transitioned to Frontier with the acquisition.

CWA International Representative Elaine Harris said that when the sale of Verizon to Frontier was completed, CWA and Frontier agreed to extend their labor contract to Aug. 2, 2013. Nearly 1,600 Frontier workers in the state are members of CWA.

Frontier reports that the two entities began negotiating their labor contract in mid-June of last year. Since the expiration of the agreement in August, the parties have made a series of extensions to the current contract while they have been busy discussing many complicated and difficult issues.

Toward the end of April of this year, CWA and Frontier notified the public of their fifth extension, which lengthened the existing contract until May 31.

“We continue to make progress during our discussions with the CWA, and we’re hopeful we can build on the common ground that we have established to come to a resolution soon,” East Region Area President Ken Arndt of Frontier said in the news release.

Harris said they haven’t found terms that they can agree to yet, but CWA is also hopeful that Frontier will come up with an offer that is satisfactory to the union members, who are the ones out working in the field.

“We’re serious about getting to an agreement,” she said.

However, CWA won’t settle for just any resolution.

“We’re not going to agree to something that we don’t believe is the best contract that would be acceptable to our members to ratify,” Harris said.

Any tentative agreement would be taken to the membership for a vote, she said. Harris stressed that CWA is trying to do what it can for best interest of customers, and this has been a big part of the negotiations.

“Frontier continues to bargain in good faith as we strive to reach a balanced contract that treats employees fairly, allows the company to provide the highest levels of customer service and gives us the ability to succeed in the highly competitive communications industry we continue to face,” Arndt commented in the release.

Harris thanked all the people who have been supportive of the efforts to get the contract in a place.

“We’ve received a tremendous amount of support from other unions, from our legislative members,” she said.

CWA represents individuals in both the public and private sectors, and has about 3,000 to 3,500 members altogether in West Virginia, Harris said.

She explained that in the state’s public sector, CWA members work for the Division of Corrections, Division of Juvenile Service, Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority, and Troopers Association. As far as the private sector, the members are employed with Frontier, AT&T and the American Federation of Teachers.

Since buying Verizon, Frontier has contributed more than $390 million into West Virginia. Frontier has expanded broadband so that close to 90 percent of households in Verizon’s previous territories in the state now have access, compared to 62 percent in the past, Frontier states.

“West Virginia is a key state for our company, and we are proud that our employees are part of the communities we serve,” Arndt stated in the press release. “We look forward to a long and prosperous future in serving the residents, businesses and institutions of West Virginia.”

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

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