Telecommunications company FairPoint Communications announced Friday that it expects to lay off workers from its northern New England network, which includes Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Angelynne Amores Beaudry, FairPoint spokeswoman, confirmed the reductions in an email, saying 110 have been identified for layoffs, with 35 from Maine. Those numbers were disputed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which said 153 are expected to be laid off, including 49 in Maine.
“We do not make these decisions lightly, and we understand the personal impact these actions have, but we must take what are often difficult steps to address the reality of a decline in landline usage,” Beaudry said in a statement. “We are in a highly competitive industry and have seen a decline in the past 12 months. As any prudent business would, we need to align the size of our workforce to meet the needs of the business.”
There was no indication of when the layoffs might take effect.
In a joint statement, Peter McLaughlin, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2327, and Don Trementozzi, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1400, blasted the company’s actions.
“This latest attack on FairPoint workers is just one more example of the company’s complete disregard for its workforce and its customers,” the statement said. “These same workers helped bring the company back from bankruptcy in 2011 after a disastrous acquisition. Since the major layoff in 2015, those workers who remained have been asked to do more with less time and time again, and our customers are the ones who suffer.”
House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, issued a statement of support for the FairPoint workers.
“House Democrats stand in solidarity with the FairPoint workers and their families who are receiving this terrible news just days before Thanksgiving,” McCabe said in a statement. “We will do everything we can to make sure they are able to access all available state resources as they work to get back on their feet.”
The company laid off 79 line workers and technicians in Maine in 2015 after a bitter, four-month strike that ended in February of that year. Those workers were part of a larger, 260-person layoff across 17 states.
The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company provides advanced data, voice and video technologies to businesses and consumers. The telecommunications industry is not regulated in Maine, with the exception of mandated telephone service providers in rural areas. According to a 2016 annual report FairPoint filed with the Maine Public Utilities Commission, it operates 1.2 million access lines in Maine. Access lines are not a reflection of how many customers FairPoint has because one customer, such as a business, could have hundreds of lines in one account. It is unclear how many broadband customers it has.
In 2007, FairPoint purchased Verizon’s landline system in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, creating its northern New England division, for $2.3 billion. Less than two years later, it filed for bankruptcy because of crushing debt, emerging from that in January 2011.
About 800 workers in Maine were affected by the 2015 strike. Representatives from two unions had offered $200 million in concessions during negotiations on a new bargaining agreement, but the company was seeking $700 million. The final agreement included a union-administered health insurance plan with benefits that would cost workers and the company less, union officials said. FairPoint also agreed to drop a proposed two-tier wage structure that would have paid new hires up to 20 percent less to do the same job as current workers.
Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at: