Consolidated Communications and two unions representing its employees in northern New England reached tentative agreements on new contracts late Sunday night after months of negotiations.

The agreements, which would remain in effect for four years, will now go before the union membership for ratification, according to a statement issued just before 10:30 p.m. by the legacy phone and internet company.

“We are very pleased with the outcome of negotiations and the effective partnership we are building with union leadership and our employees,” Bob Udell, president and chief executive officer of Consolidated, said in a statement. “These agreements reflect our mutual commitment to progress and the bright future we have together.”

Udell said the contracts with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communication Workers of America offer “competitive benefits and investment in employees and an increased commitment to maintain jobs in Northern New England.”

The union entities affected by the agreements are IBEW Locals 2320, 2326 and 2327, as well as CWA Local 1400. The locals represent approximately 900 employees in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Union negotiators confirmed that the bargaining members had reached an agreement with Consolidated.

“Brothers and Sisters, we currently have a tentative agreement,” Local 2327 officials said in a Facebook post late Sunday night. “We are working hard to get all of the details pulled together so that we are able to share with the membership as soon as possible.”

Ratification votes have not been scheduled yet.

The sides entered negotiations in March, but did not appear to be close to an agreement as a contract deadline approached Saturday night. Members of the union locals voted last month to authorize a strike if they did not reach an agreement with the company by midnight Saturday.

Workers took to the streets on Saturday to raise public awareness. More than 50 union workers, family members and supporters gathered outside the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland, where they staged an informational picket and rally. Participants wore red T-shirts with the words “Nothing Left to Give” printed on them and held signs that said, “Keep Jobs Local” and “Consolidated, lets make a deal.”

In a message on Local 2327’s Facebook page that was posted just after 11 p.m. Saturday, members of the union’s bargaining committee said they extended the deadline and urged members to be patient.

“With the tremendous support you showed today we are several steps closer to winning this fight. Now is the not the time to let up. We need you to keep up the pressure,” the union leaders said in the Facebook post. “Make no mistake, this fight is not over, but we are working hard to achieve the best contract we can. We have agreed to stop the clock for tonight and will be back at the table early tomorrow morning. At midnight (Saturday) we will still be working under the current collective bargaining agreement.”

In a separate Facebook post, union leaders explained one of their points of concern in the bargaining process. They said the company insisted on being able to use outside contractors to perform work currently being done by union members who work at Consolidated. “This makes everyone’s job less secure and weakens workers’ power on the job,” they said.

With the threat of a strike looming, Ryan Whitlock, senior vice president of operations for Consolidated, issued a statement earlier Sunday assuring customers that they would continue to be supported during the negotiation period. He said that until further notice, union workers would continue to work under existing terms and conditions of the expired contracts.

“Discussions continue with CWA and IBEW representatives. Though no new agreements have been reached, the parties continue to have productive dialogue late into Sunday afternoon in efforts to reach new agreements,” Whitlock added. “Talks have continued with mutual respect and further collaboration. Until further notice, employees continue to work under the existing terms and conditions of the expired collective bargaining agreements. We remain committed to reaching fair agreements while continuing to provide reliable support to our customers in Northern New England.”

Consolidated Communications is a broadband and business communications provider that offers a wide range of high-speed internet services, data, phone, security, cloud and wholesale carrier solutions. Consolidated acquired the company formerly known as FairPoint Communications in July 2017.


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