By Max Garland Staff writer Mar 28, 2018

Frontier Communications workers and supporters demonstrate outside of the Frontier building in Charleston earlier this month. About 1,400 Frontier Communications employees in West Virginia and Virginia were on strike until returning to work

The tentative contract agreement between Frontier Communications and the union representing its West Virginia employees includes 100 percent job security, according to a Communications Workers of America summary of the agreement.

The roughly 1,400 workers of CWA Local 142 were on strike for three weeks, primarily fighting for layoff protection for all employees who will be covered under the new contract. During the strike, Frontier had been offering layoff protection for 85 percent of employees.

Eventually, Frontier agreed to full job security for its employees in West Virginia and Ashburn, Virginia, and the CWA called off the strike Sunday.

“This agreement expands job security to ALL members in the bargaining unit as of ratification, provides for increases in wages, and has modest increases in healthcare,” the agreement summary says.
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Union members were concerned that less than 100 percent job security would lead to layoffs concentrated in Bluefield, Wheeling and Ashburn. Frontier offered buyouts to employees in those areas in December.

“All we were asking for from the beginning is that they secured the people that they had,” Ed Mooney, vice president of CWA District 2-13, said. “Why they went through that exercise, we don’t know. It’s resolved, so we’re moving forward.”

In an emailed statement, Frontier spokesman Andy Malinoski said the agreement “reflects compromises that have allowed everyone involved to return to our business as usual of serving Frontier’s customers.”

Workers will vote on the contract proposal in the coming weeks, with times and locations determined by their respective locals, Mooney said. The CWA will tally votes on April 18 and, assuming a majority votes to approve the tentative agreement, it also will be ratified on that day, according to Mooney.

The contract will remain in effect until Aug. 7, 2021, if ratified, per the agreement summary.

Union leaders are confident that members will vote to approve the contract, Mooney said. Johnny Bailey, president of CWA Local 2276 in Bluefield, agreed with that sentiment.

“You have a lot of worry or doubt in your job knowing that, any day, they can just go and move it out of here,” Bailey said. “All the employees I’ve talked to today are really satisfied with the contract we got. Even though it cost us almost four weeks pay, it was worth it in the long run.”

Frontier has roughly 60 employees in the Bluefield area, Bailey said, with around 30 working at a company call center.

Workers with CWA 142 began filing back to work Tuesday evening. Their return has gone smoothly, according to Mooney.

“Everybody’s back to work, back giving to the customers, like we promised,” Bailey said of the Bluefield employees. “We got started early this morning, and we’ll probably work through the weekend, to get caught back up.”

Base wages will increase by more than 6 percent over the lifetime of the contract, per the summary. But the agreement also includes increases in certain health care costs, such as monthly premium contributions.

“Overall, the wage increases in this agreement and the job security provisions more than pay for the modest increases in cost sharing under the health care plan,” the agreement states.

Reach Max Garland at max.garland@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4886 or follow @MaxGarlandTypes on Twitter.