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Updated: August 23, 2021

Consolidated Communications unions approve contract, averting potential strike

Consolidated Communications truck Photo / Renee Cordes Consolidated Communications, which had a truck and crew in Stonington last week, employs hundreds of people in northern New England.

Unions representing 900 employees of Consolidated Communications Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: CNSL) in northern New England said Friday that workers have overwhelmingly ratified a new four-year contract that includes wage parity for rural workers and stronger protections against subcontracting.

The new labor agreements will run through Aug. 9, 2025, averting a strike threatened last month by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communication Workers of America if they did not reach an agreement with the company.

Members of four unions ratified the contract five months after negotiations began in March.

Mattoon, Ill.-based Consolidated Communications, whose subsidiaries include FairPoint Communications Inc., is a broadband and business communications provider with a large presence in Maine, though a spokeswoman told Mainebiz via email that the company does not disclose employee counts by state or region.

The new contract covers annual wage increases of 1.5% in the first year and 1.75% in the three following years. It also puts an end to separate wage zones for rural and urban workers, so now workers across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will be according to the same zones.

Also included are a 2% wage increase for rural workers, who previously were paid less than peers in urban areas; stronger language to reduce the transfer of work to nonunion workers outside of New England; and a work-from-home agreement that allows employees to telework if they are able and choose to do so.

“This contract will ensure workers are compensated fairly and that customers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont receive fast, reliable, broadband Internet built and installed with skilled union labor,” said Peter McLaughlin, business manager for IBEW Local 2327 in Augusta. “This is a very important victory for workers and customers after several months of tough negotiations. There’s no question that the strong solidarity of the members of these four union locals brought us this critical victory.”

The company confirmed ratification of the new contracts in a separate news release.

“Our goal throughout these negotiations has been to secure labor agreements that improve the customer experience, and provide flexibility to efficiently meet our customer needs,” said Bob Udell, president and chief executive officer at Consolidated Communications. “This enables us to advance and execute on our transformational fiber growth plan while improving the sustainability of the company for all employees.”

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