Ferry union approves state contract

Contract calls for pay increase of 5 percent in first raise since 2006

Posted: Friday, February 06, 2009

One of Alaska's state ferry unions has approved a contract agreement with the state, after working without a contact since 2007. Two other unions remain working without new contracts.

The Inlandboatmens Union of the Pacific has ratified an agreement with the state, said Nicki Neal, director of the state personnel division.

The union, which represents stewards and other non-licensed Alaska Marine Highway System employees, had been working without a contract since June 30, 2007.

The IBU has about 700 employees, and is the largest of the three unions with members working on the state ferries.

Two other ferry unions, the Masters, Mates & Pilots, and the Marine Engineer's Beneficial Association, are also continuing to work under expired contracts.

The IBU contract calls for a one-time bonus of $2,137 per employee on July 1, and then a 5 percent pay increase next year, followed by a four percent increase in 2011.

"They hadn't seen a pay increase since 2006," Labor Relations analyst Nancy Sutch said.

Sutch said the lump-sum payment was done to avoid the complications of a retroactive pay increase.

The agreement also calls for a $16 a month increase in the state's cost for health coverage, for a total monthly cost of $868.

The contract runs through 2011.

Funding for the agreement still must be approved by the Legislature, but $2 million has been included in Palin's supplemental budget to pay that cost.

One of the key issues in the contract was the state's desire to remove what are known as "split wages," where the wages of absent crew members are split among the remaining members.

Split wages mean that if a vessel sails short-handed, there is no savings to the state, union officials have said in the past.

Union members previously voted down the contract in a low-turnout poll, but Sutch said union leaders suggested resubmitting the contract they'd negotiated after an informational campaign. The state was notified Jan. 6 of the union vote, but neither the state nor the union had made the action public until this week with the submission of the supplemental budget.

Sutch said she last met with the two unions without contracts in mid-January and expects to meet with them again soon.

"I have the feeling that we're coming to the end," she said.

Monetary terms for the contract need to be completed before the 60th day of the legislative session that began Jan. 15 for approval by the Legislature, Sutch said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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