State officials and the largest of the three ferry workers’ unions announced a tentative labor agreement Monday ending months of negotiations.
The new deal with the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific — should it be ratified by union members — becomes effective July 1, and the first pay increase will happen July 1, 2015.
“We definitely found common ground with IBU. This sets the stage for at least our cost-of-living foundation (with the other unions),” Curtis Thayer, the state’s Department of Administration commissioner, told the Empire.
The original deadline for resolving the contract dispute was the 60th day of the 2014 Legislative Session, which was in late-March. The Legislature must approve monetary components of state contracts, and missing that deadline all but eliminated the workers’ chances of receiving a raise this year. Instead, workers will get a 1 percent increase in 2015 and another boost of 2 percent in 2016. The deal also requires ferry workers to now pay $100 per year for ferry pass privileges, which was previously a free perk.
Other components of the deal include: updating a system allowing workers to get cash advances out of their paychecks while on board the ships; and the state gains the right to contract for automated services like self-serve customer kiosks.
A spokesperson for the IBU was unavailable for comment Monday, but the union’s website included a statement about the negotiation team signing the tentative agreement.
It said negotiators believe the terms represent “the best deal we can expect or will receive from the State of Alaska.”
“With a unified voice, we strongly recommend an affirmative vote on the proposed ballot,” the statement continued.
Originally, state officials were hoping to see a change to the cost of living differential that gives Alaska residents significantly higher pay than out-of-state residents, but the state backed off on that front.
The unions had worked together to defeat a Senate bill that was introduced during the Legislature this year that would have eliminated ability for the state to offer a cost of living differential for union workers.
“We showed the State of Alaska what ‘Alaska Strong’ is all about,” the union’s letter reads.
While the state still needs to strike deals with the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots and the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, Thayer is confident that this deal will expedite those processes.
“Once you get an agreement with the first one, that kind of sets the stage with where you’re going to go with the next two,” Thayer said.
He added that the state has already proposed a similar contract to one of the unions and is working to set up bargaining dates with the other.
• Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.