The Knowles administration has recently negotiated fair contracts with all of the state bargaining units. It is now up to the Legislature to fund them.
State employees have done their share to help meet the state's deficit. Between 1996-98, wages for private sector Alaskans rose nearly 5 percent; those for federal workers went up 16 percent, yet state worker salaries increased by only 0.1 percent. Average monthly earnings are, in some classifications, almost 25 percent less than those in which the state competes for its work force, making it difficult for state agencies to retain and competitively experienced workers.
The negotiated agreements call for very modest economic terms, including a signing bonus in lieu of a raise the first year, and 2 percent and 3 percent in the second and third years - probably less that the rate of inflation over the course of the contracts.
State employees are our friends and neighbors - 4,000 of them here in Southeast Alaska. On their own time, they volunteer and serve their communities in many capacities and through numerous organizations. On the job, these Alaska workers provide important services to the public, the loss of which would be determined to the economy and well-being of Alaska.
The contracts were negotiated in good faith and the collective bargaining process should be honored. The Juneau Building and Construction Trades Council and the Juneau Central Labor Council support funding of state employees' contracts and urge the Legislature to address them promptly.
Tim Sunday Juneau
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