CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Frontier Communications workers in West Virginia and Ashburn, Va., went out on strike at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, the Comminications Workers of America announced.
The work stoppage, which includes approximately 1,400 employees, most of them in West Virginia, comes after 10 months of contract negotiations. CWA members have been working under the terms of the old contract since late last summer.
“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 CWA District 2-13 in a statement. “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 — 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.”
The union maintains Frontier has cut 500 jobs since taking over Verizon’s landlines in 2010. Union officials cite numbers from the state Public Service Commission that show complaints from customers have risen dramatically over the last few years.
In a statement released early Sunday morning, Frontier said it would continue to offer “quality customer service” to its West Virginia customers during the work stoppage. The company said it was working toward a fair contract for all.
“We want our customers to know they are our top priority,” said Greg Stephens, Senior Vice-President, Midwest Region, Frontier Communications said in a statement. “Frontier is proud to be one of the top employers in the state, average annual wages for union employees exceed $64,500, and more than half of all union employees earn more than $75,000 per year. Including employee benefits, the Company’s average employee cost per CWA member is more than $100,000. We would like to continue to engage in constructive contract negotiations with CWA and resolve this matter quickly.”
Chris Levendo, executive vice president of field operations, said the company is focused on preserving jobs and benefits as well as addressing the needs of the business.
“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,” he said in a statement.
One union official said the workers are taking a stand for customers.
“Customers are waiting way too long to have their problems resolved, and too often we’re back fixing the same problems over and over again. Frontier is leaving West Virginia behind,” CWA Local 2226 (Bluefield) President Johnny Bailey said. “The network has been neglected and there are just not enough experienced, well-trained workers left to handle the service requests.”