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Dec 23, 2014 5:49 PM

Executive Council balks at giving Fairpoint 5-yr contract while it's engaged in strike dispute


Governor Maggie Hassan and the Executive Council were in the holiday mood Tuesday: a proclamation for the Colebrook farmer who donated the Christmas tree, carols from the Concord Community Music School, gifts to and from retiring Councilor Debora Pignatelli.

For strike-plagued Fairpoint Communications? Aa lump of coal as the council balked at a five-year, $13 million state contract even as 2,000 workers were off the job.

The governor hopes Fairpoint gets the message - make a deal with workers and the state can make a deal with you.

"I will continue to encourage the company as well as the employees to get back to the table. I'm sure they should be able to find a New Hampshire solution to this,'' Hassan said.

Councilor Colin Van Ostern says rising consumer complaints raise troubling questions if the present Fairpoint could even fulfill the contract.

"And if we are going to be entering into a five-year contract with them, how can we be sure we won't be seeing what we are seeing today,'' Van Ostern observed.

Councilor Chris Pappas said it's hard to ignore the hardship for workers and families.

"You know we see families going through hardship around the holiday time who aren't getting a pay check,'' Pappas said.

Councilor Chris Sununu, the Newfields Republican with political ambitions, stressed Hassan called this one.

"It was on the recommendation of the governor and the commissioner so we are following that path and seeing what comes of it,'' Sununu said.

A selection committee favored Fairpoint among four telecommunication firms bidding for the work.
But the deal emerges just as Fairpoint management has come under strong words from Gov. Maggie Hassan along with US Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Congresswoman Annie Kuster, all D-NH.

All three have urged Fairpoint CEO Paul Sunu to take greater efforts to compromise with the striking union whose 2,000 workers in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont are in their third month off the job.

Union executive Glenn Brackett charges Fairpoint with only insisting upon $700 million in contract givebacks that amount to workers giving up to 20 percent of their income to support health care and pension coverage.

The union has countered with three proposals the most extensive amounting to $210 million in employee contributions.

Fairpoint executives insist they have always been willing to compromise and remain open to future talks.

"The key question is now will the Executive Council change when the council flips from Democrat to Republican. Would a GOP council be more receptive to a deal for Fairpoint.


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