Citing concerns about layoffs and the use of contractors that has resulted in job loss and reduced service quality, representatives of Frontier Communications workers throughout West Virginia and in Ashburn, Va. announced that they are prepared to strike if substantial progress is not made on contract negotiations before the current contract expires at midnight on Saturday, March 3.
An analysis of informal complaints filed with the West Virginia Public Service Commission shows that complaints have increased steadily over the past three years, rising 69% from 639 complaints in 2014 to 1,072 complaints in 2017. Since 2012, Frontier has cut over 500 good, middle-class jobs in West Virginia, and has announced a plan for additional layoffs in March.
“Frontier promised West Virginians that they would continue to provide the high quality service that is critical for families and businesses across the state,” said Ed Mooney, Vice President of Communications Workers of America District 2-13 . “Instead, what we have seen is a sharp increase in customer complaints that has coincided with job cuts. There are simply not enough employees to get the job done.”
The Public Service Commission complaints reveal the extent of the problems that Frontier’s understaffing has created.
“We experienced a total outage of telephone and internet service on May 30th through June 5th. When contacted by use we were automatically given a seven day window for repair. When we call in to the service center we never speak to someone in West Virginia…We are told such things as it is the price we pay for wanting to live rural…Since then we have had internet outages on June 26th, July 8th and there are still neighbors who have no internet. Our telephone lines are antiquated and have constant static.” Tom and Barbara Turkus and neighbors, Roane County, W.Va, filed October 5, 2017.
“Telephone always going out and internet too. Have folks on heart monitors oxygen, bad health problems that are desperate need of this communications. Could be life and death.” Rita Smith, East Lynn, W.Va, filed December 18, 2017.
“Frontier has proven itself incapable of providing reliable telephone service in our local region. Over the last several months, the frequency of outages on our home phone has resulted in our inability to connect with family members dependent upon us in life threatening situations and loss of business opportunity for my husband, who attempts to conduct business with professionals across the world from our Pocahontas County residents. Our lack of reliable phone services has reached the point where his job is threatened. My biggest fear is an emergency situation, we would not able to make a 911 call. Please know that we live within the ‘quiet zone’ of Green Bank Observatory, so back-up cell phone service is not an option for us.” Mrs. Ricki Carruth, Valley Head, W.Va., filed August 30, 2017.
“Static or no service on the line, especially after it rains bare lines exposes and growing in trees. Elderly family with medical alert doesn’t have dependable phone service.” Keith Ditmer, Mary Olive, and Elma Olive, Elkview, W.Va., filed August 9, 2017.
“There are many of us who live on Hammons Creek Road who are senior citizens disabled and could be in need of emergency assistance at any time. Cellphone service is not reliable in this area. Other than outages, other problems include party line service (hearing other people’s conversations), dropped calls, phones ringing with no one is on the other end, not being able to make calls, no ability to receive calls or vise-versa. If the wind blows hard, rains, snows we lose communications.” Janice Sparks, Putnam County, W.Va., filed April 14, 2017.
“Have asked for over 30 days for Frontier to come out and either raise some old phone lines or move them from the middle of a commercial lot…Two weeks ago one of my dump truck drives caught a tail gate on the lowest wire severing it. We have been holding them up for weeks with tall poles in order for our equipment to operate…Phone poles on lot are so old and rotten, one is being held up only by my tree. We are losing big money everyday.” Glenn Yeager II, owner representing J. Fred & Grandson LLC, Hurricane, W.Va., filed August 2, 2017.
“West Virginians are tired of being left behind, and working people like us are fed up,” said Jeff Anderson, President of CWA Local 2004 in Fairmont, W.Va . “We saw it last week when the teachers went on strike. How can we provide opportunities for our kids and keep businesses in our communities if we don’t have a well-run modern telecommunications system? And how can Frontier provide good service to its customers if they keep cutting jobs?”
Members of the Communications Workers of America have been negotiating with Frontier since last May. The contract was originally set to expire on August 5, 2017, was extended until November 4, and then extended until March 3 as representatives from the union and the company continue to work toward an agreement.