Frontier Communications workers strike over subcontracting – Daily News

on Aug22
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An estimated 2,000 Frontier Communications workers went on strike Friday, protesting the company’s continued use of “inexperienced” subcontractors, saying it threatens their jobs and undermines customer service.

The Southern California employees, represented by Communications Workers of America, claim the current level of subcontracting violates their collective bargaining agreement with the telecom firm.

Under the agreement, no more than 5% of Frontier’s workforce can be subcontractors, the union said.

“Our members are fed up,” said Frank Arce, CWA’s District 9 vice president. “We are simply asking for Frontier to respect the agreed-upon protections included in our contract and we are prepared to stay out on the picket line until our demands are met.”

Workers fanned out with picket signs Friday at more than 10 Frontier facilities in Southern California.

The Connecticut-based company provides phone, TV and high-speed internet service to large portions of the Southland, including Santa Monica, Torrance, Long Beach, Lancaster, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Moreno Valley, Murrieta and Temecula, among other areas.

The union said Frontier admits it is in violation of the subcontracting limit but refuses to reveal current subcontracting levels. Frontier disagrees, saying that information was provided to the union.

In a statement issued Friday, Frontier said the issue “has been wholly mischaracterized.”

“Like most companies, we’re using contractors to fill a gap as we actively recruit new talent in a tight labor market,” the company said. “Other factors have also pushed us to engage more contractors than normal, like weather-related repair issues, meeting PUC service requirements and employees not willing to meet overtime requirements.”

Frontier said it has been bargaining in good faith to reach a fair contract for both sides. The company said it has plans in place to ensure the strike won’t affect customers.

The employees have been working without a contract since April 16. That’s when the extension of their previous labor agreement (which expired in September 2021) ran out.

CWA said “low-road subcontracting” has become increasingly common in the telecommunications industry. Carriers rely on “a vast network” of contracting companies to build out their networks and connect customers to broadband, the union said, often cutting their own union employees out of much of the work.

An October 2020 report by CWA cites AT&T as an example.

The report contends AT&T has used more than 700 contracting companies to construct and maintain its network over the last four years. The CWA surveyed 1,500 AT&T technicians in its report, finding that company techs who interact regularly with subcontractors encounter consistent problems. Ninety-six percent said the problems result in higher costs, 81% cited  service issues for customers, and 57% said the problems led to safety risks for workers or the public.

Problems range from a failure to ground or properly secure cables to avoid the risk of electrocution, to an AT&T subcontractor striking a high-pressure gas line while installing utility poles.

Andi Balentine, a local business support specialist with Frontier and executive vice president of CWA Local 9575, said similar problems are happening in Southern California.

“When subcontractors lay fiber cable, sometimes it fails to work so we have to send out one of our technicians to fix it,” the 49-year-old Camarillo resident said. “When you’re not trained by the company but are dealing with company-specific systems … that makes it hard.”

Frontier filed for bankruptcy in April 2020 after telling investors its financial troubles and customer losses were caused by a “significant under-investment in fiber deployment and limited enterprise product offerings.”

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