CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the Communication Workers of America appear to be headed toward a work stoppage with Frontier Communications in West Virginia and at one facility in neighboring Virginia.
Negotiations on a new contract have been underway for more than a year and roughly 1400 employees are working under a second contract extension. The extension will expire at midnight Saturday. The Vice-President of District 213 of the CWA says they are hopeful bargaining talks will gain ground, but believes the chances of that are increasingly unlikely.
“They’re not going anywhere right now,” Ed Mooney told MetroNews. “We’re hopeful. We still have from today until Saturday to get an agreement and we’re hoping the company will come to the table and secure the jobs of our members here.”
West Virginia First District Congressman David McKinley wrote a letter to Frontier Communications CEO Daniel McCarthy Wednesday urging an “acceptable and fair resolution” for both sides.
The job security issue has become the biggest obstacle in negotiations. The jobs impacted include not only service technicians, but also call center employees. The union and company worked together in recent months to find those who would voluntarily leave the payroll according to Mooney, but he says they’ve now reached a point where there aren’t enough people left to do the job adequately. Mooney said that is reflected in the complaints about Frontier made to the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
“It’s taking the company too long to get there to repair the problems. The quality of the network is no longer acceptable, and the continued deterioration of the network because of the company’s lack of dollars in the state,” said Mooney.
All are complaints, according to Mooney, which customers have made over the service which is something the union wants to help address. But, he and others in the union now question Frontier’s level of commitment to West Virginia.
“Since they acquired West Virginia, they have acquired other properties in California, Florida, and Texas,” he explained. “In some cases, our belief is they want to absolve themselves of their commitment to West Virginia because they’ve made more recent commitments to the states of California, Florida, and Texas.”
Mooney said there is very little chance the union would agree to another contract extension beyond Saturday night and will likely wind up on the picket line unless Frontier comes to the bargaining table with a much more suitable offer.