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Letter: Ferry employee contracts do not belong in the Legislature

Posted: March 14, 2014 - 12:16am

I am writing in opposition to SB 182. This topic does not belong in legislative discussions nor in state statutes. It is a contract topic and the Alaska Department of Administration is very capable.

I began working for Alaska Marine Highway in 1981 and have been a chief purser for over 15 years.

The claim that bonuses are given to in-state Inland Boatmen’s Union employees is not true. A historical perspective reveals the two-tiered wage system for the IBU was introduced to protect Alaska residents while SAVING the state money. In 1980, state IBU residents were given no extra money. Instead, the meager “cost of living” increases were withheld from those living out of state until the non-Alaskans were paid 20 percent less.

Several times since then, sure that hordes of scoundrel sailors were defrauding the treasury, the state has created positions to look for violators. The expense of these positions far exceeds any lost revenue. In the 1990s, three full-time people were hired for three years. To cover the cost of those positions, 1/3 of all AMHS workers (about 250 people) had to be lying about their residence for a number of years. It was a bust; no IBU members were found to be paid in error.

The claim that COLD payments are unique to the maritime unions is also false. Various forms of Cost of Living Differentials exist throughout state contracts. Depending on the region where they work, other state employees are given 3 percent to 50 percent more per hour than their counterparts in Anchorage. Cost of living differentials are common in other state and federal contracts.

I understand some covet my job. We’re hiring next month. Come join us and give up your annual step increases, forget wine with dinner, your child’s concert next week or their birthday or first game, tell your spouse to fix the drain themselves or wait a week or two until you come home for them to take a shower, and no, you can’t pick up the dog’s prescription at lunch.

If the contracts were as padded as purported, there would be a substantial wait list of good applicants for hiring. Instead, the number of Alaskan applicants has been so low that the AMHS is permitted to recruit nationwide for entry-level jobs. Sadly, we haven’t seen 2,000 applicants per year since the 1980s. In the last few years, even with recruiting, we only get a couple hundred, and of those, the state has been able to hire far fewer.

Mary Dahle

Ward Cove

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Kevin Nye
Kevin Nye 03/14/14 - 08:21 am
Right On, Mary Dahle

Right on Mary Dahle. I worked for AMHS for eight years in the engine rooms of most of our ships, and believe me, the wasted revenue does NOT come from the payout of lower than industry standard wages. The loss of revenue comes from incredible mismanagement by shore side "management". Oh the stories of wasted time and money I could tell you as the engine room crews had to deal with non maritime shoreside people. But I will spare you those details here. I may put it into my own letter to the editor though.

You politicians ALL talk about making Alaska a "better place" for "our children and our children's children", etc. You talk about "jobs for the future", etc. Well, two of my children are both working as Oiler/Jr. Engineers for AMHS. My 21 year old son is at sea right now and is just pulling into Bellingham on the Matanuska, and the other, my daughter just got off the LeConte this am and picked up her dog here at her folks/our home twenty minutes ago.

I won't get into the various aspects of the COLD debacle, I'll just tell you that in a nut shell, the AMHS wages paid to our ALASKAN merchant mariners is below industry standards already, and if you DO take away such a large chunk of their wages, I can see no reason whatsoever why my kids won't jump ship and go and work for Crowley, or Sea-Land, or Matson out of Hawaii, or American President Lines (APL) where the pay is better, and the Destinations more diverse. But, they don't want to do that. They want to stick around their Home which is, Alaska.

And, these Alaskan US Merchant Mariners who are our Friends, Relatives, Sons and Daughters, do not work for a shipping company that carries oil, or produce, or containerized goods to be delivered to Costco or WalMart. These US Merchant Mariners who man our ships carry a far more precious cargo, which is, PEOPLE. And not just any people: Alaskan People. In my opinion, if there are Merchant Mariners who should be paid handsomely, it should be they who man the ships who carry that most Precious Cargo.

So, come on you guys, get it together. Don't hurt your Fellow Alaskans by doing this. Believe it or not, I am a Conservative and usually vote Republican and I believe in "trimming costs". But I don't believe you all are barking up the correct tree here, nay, no, not at all.

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