Testimony of Don Trementozzi
On Behalf of
Communications Workers of America, Local 1400
 
Before
State of Vermont
Joint Senate Economic Development Committee / House Commerce
Committee
 
Hearing on FairPoint Communications
Wednesday, January 28
 

Good morning and thank you for holding this hearing on FairPoint Communications.

CWA Local 1400 unites more than 1,600 telecommunications workers in four New England states for the good jobs our communities' need.  We have over 300 former Verizon members now employed by FairPoint in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. 

I am a Verizon Service Rep employed at the Consumer Sales and Service Center in Worcester, MA.  I have been a member of our union for 10 years and a leader of CWA Local 1400 for more than 7 years. 

Our union and the IBEW vigorously opposed the sale of Verizon's northern New England assets to FairPoint.  Along with many others, we raised serious concerns about this company's capacity and commitment to quality service. 

In light of those concerns, the Vermont Public Service Board and the PUCs in Maine and New Hampshire imposed conditions on both FairPoint and Verizon that both companies agreed to before final approval of the sale.

One of those conditions was that FairPoint would create 600 new jobs.

With the sale approved, we are doing everything we can to help this company succeed.  A lot is at stake for employees and the communities they serve.  For the last nine months our local has worked closely with FairPoint's call center management team to facilitate a smooth cutover from Verizon systems.  There are many process changes that differ from the past and we have committed to work with upper management to work the kinks out. 

That is precisely why we were shocked when top FairPoint managers decided not to create these jobs and staff them with Local 1400 members.

But even before the cutover to FairPoint is complete, the company is reneging on its promises. 

Prior to the sale, CWA Local 1400 represented Verizon collections workers in the Boston Collections center. That work was consolidated into the Providence, RI center. With the sale, FairPoint committed to create the collections center in Burlington VT as referenced in the FCC memo dated June 28, 2007 to FCC Secretary Marlene Dortch (see attached memo).

FairPoint told us there would be about 40 to 50 jobs in the new FairPoint Collections Department in Vermont. They also committed to the State of NH that they would staff a collections office in Littleton, NH, with roughly 50 representatives.

In the fall of 2008 the company posted bids for that work company wide.

There was an enthusiastic response from many of the highly skilled representatives in the S Burlington call center who know this region well and have extensive training to tailor the products and services that FairPoint provides to its customers.

Sixteen of our Burlington members were awarded these positions in the Vermont Collections Center, but after almost two months were told they had to retreat to their former positions. During that time, they were prevented from bidding on other opportunities that arose in the company because they had already been awarded the collection jobs. 

How can FairPoint management in good faith say that these jobs are not union jobs in Vermont when they were the ones that issued the bids and awarded the positions last November?  FairPoint acknowledged last summer that this work was within our jurisdiction, and would be covered under our existing collective bargaining agreement.

Then we were informed that FairPoint had changed its mind about the Collections jobs in Burlington and that management had decided to outsource this work to a company in Mississippi. 

We were outraged.  This is our work.  The revenue is generated in New England and the work should be done in New England.  When Verizon did a cost analysis on these jobs it found that it was cost effective to keep the jobs with the highly qualified New England sales force.  If it could have found someone to do the work more competitively than us in Boston and Providence they would have.   

That's because our members' background and training in telecommunications is important.  A good collections representative does so much more than collecting revenue.  We look at the customer's accounts, we make suggestions for more appropriate or affordable services.  We link customers to the right Customer Service Representatives that provide outstanding service for our customers. At the end of the day we avoid landline loss and do everything possible to make sure customers do not loose dial tone.

That kind of quality service is consistent with our shared goals of preventing any more landline losses and making sure FairPoint Communications succeeds. 

But FairPoint's success must not come at the price of substandard service, reductions in employment or going back on any of the commitments it made prior to the sale.  In this economy, we can't afford to miss any opportunity for economic growth.  These telephone jobs are important opportunities for all of us and hiring local people will ensure a higher quality standard of service. 

FairPoint should live up to its commitments.  It should keep the collection work in northern New England and hire trained personnel in its service area to do this important work.

Thank you for your time and consideration.