Some 1,400 Frontier Communications workers in West Virginia and in Ashburn, Virginia, went on strike on March 4 following 10 months of contract negotiations.
“We have been very clear throughout the bargaining process that our top priority is keeping good jobs in our communities,” said Ed Mooney, vice president of Communications Workers of America District 2-13. “Going on strike is never easy. It’s a hardship for our members and the customers who we are proud to serve.
“But the job cuts at Frontier have gone too far,” Mooney said of the Stamford-based company. “We know it and Frontier’s customers know it. It’s time for Frontier to start investing in maintaining and rebuilding its network in West Virginia.”
Since Frontier acquired Verizon’s landlines in West Virginia in 2010, the company has cut over 500 jobs in the state, according to the union.
CWA officials further claimed that an analysis of informal complaints filed with the West Virginia Public Service Commission showed that complaints have increased steadily over the past three years, rising from 639 complaints in 2014 to 1,072 complaints in 2017.
Negotiations between the two parties began last May. The contract was originally set to expire on Aug. 5, 2017, was extended until Nov. 4, and then extended again until March 3.
Frontier said it was activating its strike contingency plan in West Virginia. “Members of the management team, outside contractors and representatives from other Frontier organizations will continue to provide West Virginia customers with quality customer service,” it said in a news release. “The company is working to minimize disruptions to customer service.”
Frontier characterized itself in the release as “one of West Virginia’s best employers,” saying that average annual wages for its union employees exceeds $64,500, with more than half making more than $75,000 per year. Adding in medical coverage and other employee benefits, the company said its average employee cost per CWA member tops $100,000.
“Our objective in these negotiations has been to preserve good jobs with competitive wages and excellent benefits, while addressing the needs of our ever-changing business,” said Chris Levendos, Frontier executive vice president of field operations. “All of our contract proposals have included the continuation of generous wages and benefits. We would like to continue to engage in constructive contract negotiations with CWA and resolve this matter quickly.”