Juneau Assembly affirms labor agreement policy

JUNEAU — The Juneau Docks and Harbors department should reconsider a decision not to use a project labor agreement for the rebuild of the city's downtown cruise ship docks, according to the Juneau Assembly.

A decision by the department to bid the project without such an agreement broke a longstanding city policy to use them to the fullest extent possible, KTOO reported (http://bit.ly/1fDRj7N ). The Assembly this week affirmed that policy, which does not require the city to hire a union contractor, but does set basic terms for wages, benefits and working conditions.

Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker said it's not up to the department to decide whether they want to follow the policy. He said the policy was meant to apply to all city departments and enterprise boards.

Port director Carl Uchytil had said a labor agreement wasn't necessary since the work is fairly simple and straightforward. He declined comment Tuesday to KTOO, saying he was still trying to understand the motion. He did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press on Thursday.

Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl said project labor agreements offer advantages, noting the on-time performance of large projects over $10 million is "dramatically better" than on projects without such agreements.

The construction of two floating berths is expected to cost $54 million and take two years. Kiehl said it's important it be completed on time.

"We saw this year the impact, and we'll see it in the budget, of missing cruise ships," Kiehl said. "They missed for mechanical reasons; some skipped Southeast communities for weather reasons. And with these dock projects we run the risk, if they are not delivered on time, of self-inflicted financial wounds."

The motion also requested that Docks and Harbors resolve any issues that would prevent use of a project labor agreement on the dock project with the Juneau Building and Trades Council.

Tom Brice, the building and trades council president, said the department's initial decision not to have an agreement for the docks doesn't concern him moving forward.

"I think the folks over at Docks and Harbors haven't had a lot of major projects come through their store," he said. "So, as they use it, it will be something that they'll see a great deal of benefit from."

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