FairPoint Communications and striking workers have reached a tentative contract agreement.
The announcement comes after weeks of negotiations under the auspices of the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), which says FairPoint’s striking employees will return to work next Wednesday.
Approximately 1,800 workers in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire walked off the job in October after FairPoint declared an impasse and unilaterally imposed the contract terms it had been seeking.
They called union and company representatives to Washington and imposed a blackout on the talks.
In a statement announcing the tentative agreement, the FMCS said, "The new labor agreements will provide employees with wages and benefits that are among the best in northern New England. At the same time, the agreements permit the company to achieve a much more competitive position in the marketplace.”
"Negotiators for both sides faced difficult issues that divided them, and through their perseverance and commitment to the process, they were able to bridge the gaps and resolve their longstanding dispute," said FMCS Acting Director Allison Beck said.
The key disagreements between the unions and the company revolved around health and retirement benefits and the use of non-union contract workers.
Beck said union members will vote on the tentative agreements in the near future and until then the parties will withhold further comment.
In a statement released after the announcement, Gov. Peter Shumlin called the agreement “good news for Vermont.”
“I’m glad the long wait for the workers and their families is coming to an end, and that FairPoint will have a better chance to succeed in its competitive industry under this new agreement,” Shumlin said.