Union employees of FairPoint Communications in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will vote this week on whether they’re willing to strike after contract negotiations with the company have stalled.

Leaders of the local chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers of America have scheduled a strike-authorization vote to be held between July 11 and 13. The two unions represent nearly 2,000 FairPoint employees in the three states.

Union leaders have been in contract negotiations with FairPoint since April 25. The current labor contract expires Aug. 2.

“Despite two months of weekly bargaining, management refuses to bargain fairly with the unions, and we are no closer today than in April to an agreement that protects consumers and good jobs in our communities,” Peter McLaughlin, chairman of the IBEW’s System Council T-9, said in a statement. “Though we hope a strike is unnecessary, this vote is the first step towards a work stoppage, should the company continue to put profits over quality work from quality employees.”

If employees vote to strike, that does not guarantee a strike actually will happen. It would only authorize union leaders to consider a strike.

Angelynne Amores Beaudry, corporate communications director for the telecommunications company, said FairPoint is trying to bring contract costs in line with competitors since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2011. She said management has made 65 proposals since negotiations began, of which only 11 have received a counterproposal from the unions.

“If the Unions really want successor contracts, they will come to the table with real proposals that put customers first and position FairPoint to compete and succeed,” said Amores Beaudry in an email to the Portland Press Herald.

A sticking point in the negotiations is FairPoint’s use of non-union workers on a contractual basis, according to a statement from the unions. Union leaders expect workers will vote “overwhelmingly” to give them strike authorization.

“We’ve seen it time and time again when companies hire outside contractors to do the work of skilled, local employees; customers are the ones who suffer,” said Serina DeWolfe, a customer service representative at the FairPoint call center in Portland and a member of CWA Local 1400. “We are the ones who know the specific needs of northern New England customers and have been meeting those needs for decades.”

In May, a group of FairPoint workers went to the company’s headquarters in North Carolina to bring their concerns to shareholders gathered for the company’s annual meeting. Afterward, they told reporters it appeared the company wants workers to accept lower wages.

At the time, Amores Beaudry said the average wage and benefit cost for a northern New England FairPoint employee is $115,000.

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