HUNTINGTON  Approximately 1,400 Frontier Communications workers in West Virginia and in Ashburn, Virginia, went on strike Sunday morning.

Following 10 months of negotiations, members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) were not been able to reach agreement on a contract with Frontier Communications, union officials said.

"We have been very clear throughout the bargaining process that our top priority is keeping good jobs in our communities," said Ed Mooney, vice president of CWA District 2-13. "Going on strike is never easy. It's a hardship for our members and the customers who we are proud to serve. But the job cuts at Frontier have gone too far - we know it, and Frontier's customers know it. It's time for Frontier to start investing in maintaining and rebuilding its network in West Virginia."

Union officials claim 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 percent from 639 complaints in 2014 to 1,072 complaints in 2017.

Since Frontier acquired Verizon's landlines in West Virginia in 2010, the company has cut over 500 middle-class jobs in the state, according to the union.

"We're taking a stand," said Johnny Bailey, president of CWA Local 2226 in Bluefield, West Virginia. "Customers are waiting way too long to have their problems resolved, and too often we're back fixing the same problems over and over again. Frontier is leaving West Virginia behind. The network has been neglected, and there are just not enough experienced, well-trained workers left to handle the service requests."

Members of the Communications Workers of America have been negotiating with Frontier since last May. The contract was originally set to expire on Aug. 5, 2017, but was extended until Nov. 4, and then extended again until March 3.

Meanwhile, Frontier Communications announced that it has activated its strike contingency plan in West Virginia.

"Members of the management team, outside contractors and representatives from other Frontier organizations will continue to provide West Virginia customers with quality customer service," the company said in a news release. "The company is working to minimize disruptions to customer service."

"Our objective in these negotiations has been to preserve good jobs with competitive wages and excellent benefits, while addressing the needs of our ever-changing business," said Chris Levendos, executive vice president of field operations. "All of our contract proposals have included the continuation of generous wages and benefits. We would like to continue to engage in constructive contract negotiations with CWA and resolve this matter quickly."

Frontier says its average annual wages for the company's union employees exceed $64,500, and more than half of all union employees earn more than $75,000 per year.

"For comprehensive family medical coverage, most employees pay less than $150 per month for family coverage, with no annual deductible and low co-pays," the company said in the release. "Including employee benefits, the company's average employee cost per CWA member is more than $100,000."

Residential customers with service questions may call 800-921-8101.

Business customers with service questions may call 800-921-8102.

Customers may also access Frontier's Help Center online at www.frontier.com.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter at @FredPaceHD.

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