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December 28, 2016

Pingree joins call for FairPoint to postpone layoffs

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, has joined several congressional colleagues from Northern New England in sending a letter to FairPoint Communications asking the company to reverse its decision to lay off 10% of its workforce by Dec. 30.

FairPoint's move to lay off as many as 110 employees comes while Consolidated Communications, an Illinois telecom provider, is negotiating to purchase the company for $1.5 billion. The Biddeford Journal Tribune reported that 30 of the employees to be laid off work in Maine.

"It's like the Grinch who stole Christmas," Don Trementozzi, president of the Communication Workers of America Local 1400, told the newspaper.

Members of both the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2327 are included in the layoffs.

In their Dec. 16 letter to FairPoint CEO Paul Sunu, Pingree and her colleagues said, "We write regarding our concern for your employees and their families given the recent announcement by FairPoint that it will lay off 10% of its workforce in Northern New England. This will impact Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, and will be rolled out at a particularly difficult time of year. Understanding that Consolidated Communications is working to acquire FairPoint for a significant sum of $1.5 billion, we ask you work on a seamless transition that avoids any employee layoffs. … We urge you to reverse this decision and send the clear message that FairPoint values its workers and the communities in which the company operates."

Pingree was joined by U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Rep. Ann Kuster of New Hampshire.

Angelynne Beaudry, FairPoint's director of corporate communications, said the lawmakers' letter failed to acknowledge the company's $900 million investment in the region that has increased FairPoint's broadband coverage in its northern New England service area from 65% to approximately 90%. She characterized the scheduled layoffs as being driven by competitive challenges in the rapidly changing telecommunications business.

"The realities of rapidly evolving technology, changing consumer preferences and an ever-more-competitive telecommunications landscape have led to a significant decline in our legacy services and revenues," she told Mainebiz in a written statement. "As any prudent business would, we have reduced our workforce to match our workload and the size and composition of our revenue. We look forward to working with elected officials and regulators as we take the needed steps to successfully close the transaction."

FairPoint Communications (NASDAQ: FRP), which is based in Charlotte, N.C., offers phone and internet service in 17 states, including in Maine. The company has 2,600 employees nationwide, including 40 in its national headquarters.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the response of FairPoint Communications to Mainebiz's request for comment on the congressional letter.

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