State reaches a deal with one ferry union

Department of Transportation officials say agreement is confidential and tentative

Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2005

JUNEAU - State negotiators say they have made a deal with one union representing the crew of the fast ferry Fairweather but still threaten to pull the vessel out of service if agreements aren't reached with all three by Jan. 25.

Department of Transportation officials say the three-year contract agreement with the Inlandboatmen's Union is confidential and tentative. The contract terms must still be ratified by the union and approved by the Legislature.

However, the negotiators will not hold mediated talks with the other two unions - the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association and the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, United Inland Group - until just before the state's Jan. 25 deadline.

They couldn't schedule a federal mediator until Jan. 24.

If there is still no deal, the state will pull the fast ferry out of service, said John Torgerson, special assistant to Transportation Commissioner Mike Barton.

No contingency plans have been made if the Fairweather's service is halted, and no other ferry would be rerouted to take its place, Torgerson said. Three other ferries already travel through Lynn Canal - the Matanuska, the Malaspina and the LeConte.

The state wants to run the ferry four days a week during the winter, which would require laying off the vessel's second 15-member crew.

The Fairweather carries 250 passengers and 35 vehicles down the Lynn Canal from Skagway to Juneau and Sitka.

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