FairPoint Communications and the unions representing striking workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont resumed negotiations Sunday in Washington, D.C., apparently under strict federal guidelines that they not make public statements after the talks began.

Neither side would comment Sunday night on what if any progress was made during the session.

FairPoint spokeswoman Angelynne Amores Beaudry would not even say how long the negotiations, led by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, lasted on Sunday.

“At this time, we are declining to comment. We choose to respect the FMCS process. In fact, our only comment is: it would be inappropriate to comment on the meeting,” she replied in an email Sunday night.

Telephone messages and emails left with union officials were not returned, and there were no messages or negotiation updates posted on the unions’ Facebook page “Fairness at FairPoint.”

“Our bargaining team will sit down with the company and federal mediators today, Jan. 4, at 1 p.m.,” was the only Facebook statement made by union leaders Sunday.


A press release issued Friday by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communication Workers of America said “the federal mediation process requires that negotiators on both sides will not be allowed to disclose any information about the negotiations once they begin on Jan. 4.”

Sunday’s meeting was called by Allison Beck, acting director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, an independent U.S. government agency that mediates labor disputes.

“As is agency practice, the FMCS is not releasing additional information regarding meeting dates and locations. In addition, the FMCS will have no further comment at this time regarding the status or substance of the negotiations,” Beck said in a press release posted on the agency’s website.

Jenn Nappi, assistant business manager for IBEW 2327 in Augusta, said Sunday morning – about two hours before negotiations began – that the mediator has scheduled another meeting for Monday morning between FairPoint and the unions. Nappi said it was unclear how long Sunday’s meeting might last, and that the two sides might talk logistics for upcoming meetings rather than delve into issues.

The two unions represent 1,800 striking FairPoint workers in northern New England, about 800 of them in Maine. The company and workers started negotiations on new contracts in April. The two sides are fighting over cuts to employee benefits. FairPoint is looking for $700 million in concessions through cuts in health benefits and the freezing of pensions. The unions say they are willing to take $200 million in benefit cuts.

Sunday’s negotiating session was the second since workers went on strike Oct. 17. A meeting called by a federal mediator on Nov. 18 in Boston lasted only about an hour. This time, officials say, the mediator is expected to play a more formal role in the discussions, The Associated Press reported.

The meeting in Washington followed the dismissal Dec. 29 by the National Labor Relations Board of a charge by the unions that FairPoint acted illegally when it declared an impasse and imposed a new contract in August. The unions say they will appeal the ruling.

Monday will mark the 81st day of the strike.

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