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City employee unions fighting wage freeze

Posted: July 31, 2011 - 7:50pm

One city employee union is fighting against a wage freeze for the upcoming year on Wednesday, and another may follow suit this fall.

The City and Borough of Juneau and the International Association of Firefighters will participate in a fact-finding hearing starting at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. The hearing will be open to the public.

City Human Resources Director Mila Cosgrove said the fact-finding hearing is part of the rules of procedure and occurs when labor negotiations are at an impasse. A facilitator, someone who is a neutral party, will hear both sides and write a recommendation.

Cosgrove said that Attorney Robert Landau of Anchorage will be that facilitator.

“They will make a recommendation in writing for how they (both parties) should resolve their issues,” Cosgrove said. “If they still can’t arrive at an agreement, the outstanding issues are forwarded to the Assembly. … The basic process will be both parties will explain why their position is a reasonable one and the fact-finder will make some determinations from there as well.”

Cosgrove said the only issue on the table for IAFF is the wage article in the agreement.

“The city is not — our position is we do not want to increase pay this year through a general increase,” she said.

Initially, the city also scheduled a similar hearing for Thursday for the Public Safety Employees Association. That hearing has been cancelled at this time, but the issues have not been resolved.

“We were trying to fast track it because Mr. Landau would be here,” Cosgrove said. “The union is requesting access to financial data we don’t have available yet. It’s not resolved, at least at this point. It’s always possible before we get to fact finding.”

Cosgrove said if it doesn’t reach a resolution, a hearing will likely take place in September or October.

While this option for a hearing has been in city policy a long time, and the encompassing policy updated a few years ago, it hasn’t really been used before. She said that it hasn’t been enacted during her tenure before and when asking around she had heard that there was a very limited issue on health insurance for hospital employees that went to the Assembly “many years ago.” Other than that hint of action, the policy has largely not been utilized before.

More details on IAFF and CBJ arguments on the issues will be available at the public hearing on Wednesday.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com

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