Telecom workers ratify agreement to end strike in New England

(Reuters) - Union members ratified an agreement on Sunday that ends a four-month-long strike by some 1,800 workers at FairPoint Communications, a major land-line telecommunications provider in northern New England, union officials announced. Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers of America (CWA) in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont went on strike Oct. 17 when negotiations broke off. FairPoint used replacement workers in their absence. Union and FairPoint negotiators reached a tentative agreement on Feb. 19, followed by three days of union member voting that ended on Sunday. The union did not disclose vote totals. The agreement calls for a union-administered health insurance plan with improved benefits at a lower cost, union local representatives said in a statement on Sunday. FairPoint agreed to abolish a two-tier wage structure and to protect jobs from outsourcing, they said. "This agreement is a win for our members and for future FairPoint employees,” Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400, said in the unions’statement. “We went on strike last October because we are committed to keeping good, middle-class jobs in New England." A FairPoint spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment but on Feb. 19 the company said the pact would give employees among the best wages and benefits in New England while enhancing the company’s competitive position in the marketplace. (Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Ediiting by Tom Brown)