PORTLAND — Two unions that accused FairPoint Communications of bargaining in bad faith have lost their appeal to the National Labor Relations Board, delivering a blow to striking workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, officials said Tuesday.

The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers vowed to appeal and said striking workers remain steadfast in their resolve to force the Charlotte, North Carolina-based telecommunications company back to the bargaining table.

“We’ve prepared ourselves for a long battle,” said Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The labor board’s regional office dismissed the union’s complaints, saying its investigation concluded there were good-faith efforts to reach an agreement over 25 bargaining sessions before the company declared an impasse Aug. 28.

More than 1,700 FairPoint Communications Inc. workers went on strike in October two days after the company imposed terms of its final offer.

The company froze the pension plan and replaced it with 401(k) plans. It also required workers to contribute to health costs, allowed itself to hire contractors and eliminated retiree health care benefits for current workers.

FairPoint spokeswoman Angelynne Amores Beaudry said the labor board’s dismissal of union complaints proves there’s “no basis to the allegations that FairPoint bargained in bad faith or that its implementation of its final contract proposals was unlawful.”

The unions plan to appeal the decision by the regional labor board office to the labor board’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., but the process could take months.

In Portland, about two-dozen striking workers remained upbeat Tuesday, listening to John Cougar Mellencamp songs and marching and chanting outside FairPoint’s state office.

“Everybody wants to go to work but with a fair contract,” said Stephanie Hill, of Windham. “We’re not asking for anything extra. All we’re asking for ultimately is to keep a little bit of what we have.”

The unions said they weren’t backing down in their insistence for the company to return to the table.

“There should be some spirit of compromise,” said Trementozzi, who contends the company is digging itself into a hole with growing customer service complaints and customers leaving for competing phone and Internet providers.

Some members of Congress have urged the two sides to come together. And New Hampshire delayed action last week on a $13 million state contract for Internet and telephone service because of the strike.

FairPoint contends the old contract was too rich in an era of increasing competition and it needed to bring it into sync with the industry.

The company provides telephone and high-speed Internet in more than a dozen states, but most of its business is in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, where it has about 1 million lines.

FairPoint bought Verizon’s landline holdings in northern New England for $2.3 billion in 2007 and filed for bankruptcy 18 months later after losing customers because of operational and integration problems. It has continued to struggle since emerging from bankruptcy in 2011.

        Comments are not available on this story.

        filed under: