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NY comptroller gets involved in FairPoint dispute, pens letter to FairPoint shareholder

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The New York comptroller is getting involved in the FairPoint labor dispute, using his clout with the company's biggest shareholder to ensure the company's workforce is treated fairly.

Thomas DiNapoli expressed concerns about allegations that FairPoint improperly declared an impasse in negotiations with unions representing more than 1,700 workers.

DiNapoli raised the concerns in a letter to John Angelo, CEO of a private equity firm that owns nearly 20 percent of FairPoint stock. DiNapoli said he was writing as trustee of the pension fund for New York state workers, which has invested in a hedge fund that's managed by Angelo's company.

"In our experience as a long-term institutional investor, where a company has a constructive relationship with its workers and provides sustainable retirement benefits, the company becomes a stronger, more profitable and more enduring enterprise," he wrote in the letter dated Sept. 3.

He asked Angelo to look into allegations that the telecommunications company violated federal law by declaring an impasse and imposing terms of the company's final contract proposal. He also asked Angelo to report back.

A message left Angelo's company, New York-based Angelo, Gordon & Co., wasn't immediately returned.

FairPoint officials said they properly imposed contract terms after reaching the impasse. They also denied that they have refused to meet with the union or that they've failed to bargain in good faith.

"We believe constructive relationships with workers are important to a company's long-term success. We also believe that we have bargained in good faith and believe that we are impasse because the unions did not agree to our proposals, we did not agree to their proposals and that there is a wide gulf between them," said spokeswoman Angelynne Amores Beaudry.

The North Carolina-based company that provides telephone service and online connections in northern New England ended negotiations last month by declaring an impasse. The Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers appealed to the National Labor Relations Board.

The contract that's being imposed by the company freezes the existing defined benefit pension plan and rolls contributions into a new plan. It also allows the company to hire contractors, eliminates retiree health care benefits for current workers and requires workers to share some health care costs.

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